LUSK – The Niobrara County School District convened on Monday after the first day of school for its second board meeting of August. Some ninth graders and their parents attended the meeting to express their thoughts on the new closed campus lunches.
The high school administration ruled before school started to have ninth grade closed campus lunch because of incidents last year and recommendations by the school resource advisor. After the decision was made, it was discussed as a report at a previous board meeting.
Principal Robyn Heth said most schools in the state do closed campus lunches for ninth graders.
Freshman Nathan Fish addressed the board during the visitor session. Fish said ninth graders need open campus lunch in order to socialize with the older students.
“We have looked forward to being in high school and having open campus lunch. It was supposed to be our chance to hang out and get to know the upperclassmen,” Fish said.
He also presented the board with an alternative idea for lunch.
“The solution I am proposing to you is that we all start with open campus lunch, but if someone is tardy that person loses open campus lunch and is required to ride the bus to the other school,” Fish said.
Parents of ninth graders, Amber Smith and Desirae Leheux, also spoke in favor of allowing freshman to have open campus lunch.
The board agreed to discuss the matter further during old business. Trustee Candy Dooper suggested bringing back “no tardy lunch” as a positive institution of the new rule to allow kids who have done nothing wrong to be rewarded.
“We eliminated punishing the group for the behavior of a few, and it was a positive account of trying to enforce a rule,” said Dooper.
Board member Sheila Bolden agreed and said her main concern was if the ninth graders have to do it then the tenth graders should also have closed lunch, especially since incidents from last year were part of the cause for the new rule.
“I’m not opposed to either [decision], but I don’t want to cost one class a privilege that they didn’t do anything to lose” Bolden said.
Principal Heth restated closed campus lunch for ninth graders is common in the state and there are also safety concerns added to it as well. Heth did say she was willing to listen to students and parents about the issue and try to come to an understanding. Heth also mentioned Monday was very busy for her with school restarting.
While some board members were willing to make a decision on the matter, Chairwoman Lexi Ashurst said the school administration should have a chance to talk to parents and students first.
“Parents hate surprises, but admins need a chance to admin,” Ashurst said. “Go to the administration first, and then we will discuss it from there.”
Trustee Dooper also addressed concerns from parents about seventh and eighth graders being on separate floors from the ninth graders, but they are currently all together. Heth said this was because there is not enough room to be able to fully separate them.
Some board members believed the plan originally included putting the ninth graders with the other high schoolers, but it was corrected to have only been talked about and not decided on.
With school underway, Superintendent George Mirich talked about the current COVID policy during his report. Mirich said one student and one teacher will start the year in quarantine. Mirich also said the protocols from the state and local level are the same. There is no mask requirement, but it is still recommended.
“Masking could be on the table if the numbers continue to rise or becomes a problem,” Mirich said.
While masks are not required, the only way to avoid quarantine for people of close contact with someone who tested positive is if both of them were wearing masks.
Mirich said there will be a flow chart coming out soon to clearly show all the levels of procedures in regard to quarantining.
“We are going to operate as normal with no masks and try to maintain distance as much as you can,” said Mirich.
In other old business, Dooper proposed a plan to make a Superintendent Council to look into policy and keep a pulse on the community. The new council would essentially eliminate the policy committee if it put into place. The council would consist of representatives from most of the grade levels and a principal to ensure everyone is being heard. The board agreed to discuss it further in the future.
The board approved all of the action items on the agenda which were revisions to Policy JFG on third reading, WYVA handbooks and extra duty assignments, LEMS and HS handbooks, and NCSD No. 1 Special Education Procedures Manual. WHSAA membership and dues were also approved, and board member Randy Rose was selected as the representative.
After old business was discussed, the board adjourned to Executive Session.
The next meeting will be Sept. 13 at 6 p.m.