TRSU board hears reopening plans, hires GM board member

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

With school reopening in one month from its Aug. 7 meeting, the board of the Two Rivers Supervisory Union heard plans for bringing students back to the classrooms while the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

Superintendent Lauren Fierman told the board that with the state of emergency lifted, the guidance from the Agency of Education is just that and not a requirement. She also noted it is up to the individual boards to make the decisions on how to handle issues like mask requirements or to designate her to make those decisions for them.

The meeting was held via zoom and in person at the Ludlow Elementary School. Image courtesy of Okemo Valley TV

Following the AOE recommendations, Fierman said that she would have universal masking for first 10 days of school. After that, if 80 percent of the student population is vaccinated, masks would be optional. for those who have gotten the shots. Since those under age 12 are not eligible to receive the shots, all children in the elementary schools would be wearing masks. Fierman also said, if it were up to her, everyone riding on school buses would be masked regardless of vaccinations.

However, the district boards have the authority to make such decisions. But last year, the boards delegated that authority to Fierman. The board could decide to retain rather than delegate that authority, but dropping the masking component would go against the recommendations of the AOE, the Vermont Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control.

Green Mountain board member Michael Studin asked if there would be a remote option if children had to be masked all day. Fierman said there would be no remote academy as there had been last year, but that the Vermont Virtual Learning Cooperative would continue to provide classes to high school students

According to Fierman, since there is no state authorization/waiver for remote learning, the schools must have at least 50 percent attendance in the school buildings or would be in danger of losing the school days. Also for this reason, the state has said the schools cannot use remote learning on snow days. Fierman said she hopes the state will reconsider the question of remote snow days.

Ludlow Mt. Holly board chair Paul Orzechowski forcefully stated his opposition to a mask mandate for children.

“I disagree with the state. I feel we should let the parents decide about masks. I don’t like the idea of all students being forced to wear masks. The government tells us enough stuff to do,” said Orzechowski, “A younger age – especially with the science – I feel it does more harm than good.”

Joe Fromberger disagreed with Orzechowski’s position on masks saying the board has ‘and absolute obligation to protect students’

Orzechowski said that he would be in favor of delegating the authority but he wanted to go on the record with his feelings about the state’s recommendation.

Joe Fromberger, TRSU board member and chair of the GM board, disagreed with Orzechowski. “We have an absolute obligation to protect our students from exposure.”

“I am very, very concerned that if we don’t do everything we can to protect people, in the future we will regret it,” said Fromberger.

The two district boards are expected to make the decisions on whether to delegate the authority over health decisions at their next board meetings. Ludlow Mount Holly meets on Wednesday Aug. 11 and Green Mountain meets on Thursday August 19.

Board member appointed as teacher, must step down

Fierman recommended hiring Green Mountain board member Jeannie Wade as a special education teacher at Chester-Andover Elementary beginning in the fall. Wade would replace Nicole Luz who has moved into the role of assistant principal there.

Jeannie Wade Telegraph file photo

Fierman said that Mary Barton, director of special services, and Principal Katherine Fogg had met with Wade and found her “a well-qualified, excellent candidate.” Wade is certified in special education and has two masters degrees in education. Fierman said Wade wanted to move out of being self-employed.

Wade, who was elected to the GM board representing Chester in March 2020 will have to step down from that post. By statute, the Chester Select Board will recommend a replacement to the GM board, which will have the final say.

The TRSU board (not the district boards) makes the hire for special ed teachers since it is the supervisory union that oversees those programs.

Multi-board retreat continues

The board retreat that took place last month will have two more sessions as the Green Mountain and Ludlow Mount Holly district boards will meet in the Cornerstone Room at Jackson Gore from 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 17 and 18. The meetings are open to the public but will not be available by Zoom.

Next meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Thursday September 2 at Cavendish Town Elementary School, 573 Main Street, Proctorsville and via Zoom

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  1. Ken Saccardo says:

    Elise, Paul is correct. You are misinformed. Masking decision should be left to the individual.

    And if you are personally vaccinated and believe in its benefits why are you in fear about it. Aren’t you protected?

    More kids died from the flu last year than Covid. Asymptomatic spread does not exist. For the past year haven’t you noticed the conflicting information? Time to do your own research.

    The psychological damage being done children is terrible.

  2. A Perry says:

    The decision to mask should be left to the parents, period. There is a tremendous amount of conflicting information out there about the safety and efficacy of masks. Even the box of surgical masks everyone is so fond of states very, very clearly that they do NOT protect from covid 19. If masks were so effective, we would have seen far fewer cases. The fact is most people don’t even wear them correctly or handle them correctly, let alone change and wash them properly…and that’s the adults! Masks provide a false sense of security, and people let their guard down. Regardless of all that, I, for one, absolutely do not want my child masked for hours each day, breathing through a moist, germy mask, and rebreathing the toxins we naturally expel through our breath. It is ineffective and frankly, disgusting. If no remote option is offered, parents should have a say. We have a right to make these decisions for our own children. Forcing masks to prevent disease makes them a medical device, and parents make personal medical decisions for their kids, not schools and school boards. Without a state mandate, people have a choice. When even the box says they are not effective in preventing covid, why are we even considering it? It is not logical. I strongly oppose forcing our kids to wear masks. The emotional and psychological effect/damage is far worse than the dubious protection they may bring. Enough is enough!

  3. Sue Pollard says:

    Masking on public transportation is a federal requirement-as people utilizing the ‘Moovers’ transportation are required to mask. I believe all people, regardless of age, should be masked on buses, in group settings (i.e.-classrooms) and in any crowded area, such as an assembly. If outdoors and distanced, then masks could be removed. There are a lot of health guidelines relating to ventilation and filtration of buildings, and these should be looked at. Is there anyone from a healthcare background assisting and supporting the discussions and decisions surrounding the schools, its employees and students? It seems to me, that would be the most reliable person(s) to make these decisions…Just my opinion, of course. As a director of a healthcare facility, I have had to look at many of these guidelines.

  4. Elise A. Junker says:

    We absolutely need to protect children and our most vunerable!
    Paul Orzechowski is wrong and misinformed. Masks are an important part of beating this virus. Bus rides and indoor learning are especially risky. Also, everyone should get vaccinated!