School board hears parents’ concerns


LUSK – The school board held its meeting Monday night, at 6 p.m., and was filled full of both parents, guest speakers and even health speakers and a State Senate official. Lengthy efforts and expressions were shared in an attempt to reach a common ground between the parents and those who shared concerns on the care of their children, and how they were to be treated in light of COVID, and the educators and their requirements on how they treat those who are sick or the mandates to be applied to help prevent COVID in the school district here in Niobrara County.

With the mask effectiveness and quarantine topics of heated discussion, much was spoken on both sides, bringing the medical official to talk in lengths about their beliefs on what they felt was necessary versus the ideals that a parent knows their child. If the child is feeling unwell, let the parent decide, perhaps, that the child may want to stay home until they feel better, as a simple way to help. This, among other topics the medical official mentioned, did offer in hopes to ease the stress. They also thanked all present in their efforts for not being hostile to one another and the fact that everyone was allowed to be heard.

As the meeting continued, there were good efforts made by the board to have everyone be heard, and to be made to understand the efforts made in helping those parents and children in the educational system’s care.

Through tentative proceedings moving forward through the lengthy hours that followed, all visitors that signed up to speak, got to share what they desired, and had their questions answered. The Senate official, Cheri Steinmetz, also explained the state and local laws involving treatment and abilities the school system can implement and what some of the medical responses can be. Thorough talks were followed through and ultimately a plan was reached to respond to these ongoing concerns and the COVID issues affecting us all as we continue forward in the education of our children going forward. These have been mentioned to be posted once fully written and defined properly, so if you are wanting more information, be sure to look for those and reach out. Speaking to the parents afterwards, a general consensus was they are mostly pleased with the outcome, and feel heard, as well as glad they came.

George Mirich is the Superintendent for Niobrara County School District No. 1.

He feels things were handled to the best of their ability, and the COVID plan was created straight from the advice from Public Health. This was the first board meeting they have been able to have since school started.

“This year there weren’t any mandates unlike last year, and that’s the only real difference so far. Unfortunately, the kids that have been quarantined this year, have not gone so smoothly as far as virtual schooling is concerned, but at the same time we haven’t done much just yet. With the first week of school, we had homecoming and then we had fall testing starting, which means they haven't really had a ton of what you might call ‘class time.’”

“It was unfortunate that we had as many kids quarantined as we did early on, but it was primarily the middle school kids. It did get in the way of a couple of the activities like middle school football games, but the other teams still have to play. We’ve lost the high school football game, we’ve already missed two middle school football games and not because of us, because of somebody else! And today, it’s middle school volleyball because the people up the road are sick. It happens, we are a small school, so that’s going to happen. It’s very unfortunate, that we’ve had 23 kids quarantined because of exposure at school and ten of them were quarantined because they had the illness in their house. That’s sadly the majority of our seventh and eighth graders right there.

“The next couple of weeks will be different for us because we’re not going to be the ones deciding the quarantine and things like that. But this really puts some stress on our public health, which already is under heavy stress.

Surprisingly enough, teaching and learning isn't our first job. Supervision and safety are our first job. And I take that very seriously and the staff is getting better at that. This is our main job; you can’t let these things happen because they sent the kids to us expecting them to be safe! We have to do that first and then we are about teaching and sometimes the separation can be big like it is right now but, I think tonight we shrunk it. Now we can get more focused on what everybody thinks our job really is.”

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