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Marietta BOE discusses levies, public opinions

Two levies were considered in the Marietta City Schools Board of Education special meeting Thursday alongside a summary of public questions concerning the two approved-by-board-vote options for school return this fall.

Questions answered by Superintendent Will Hampton:

What happens to IEPs?

Hampton said the supplemental services will predominantly be supplied online, in the same formats that were provided in the spring semester when the district went fully virtual.

Will students be provided with individual laptops or tablets by the school district?

All students will be provided with a device by a district and hotspots for families without internet access will be provided on a case-by-case basis.

What is the protocol if a student or teacher tests positive for COVID-19?

Protocols will be outlined for contact tracing and isolation by the Marietta-Belpre Health Department.

How will the district handle air circulation while attempting to prevent airborne spread of coronavirus?

Hampton noted that where needed, windows and fans will be utilized to contribute to air circulation.

Will the district provide masks or are students required to bring their own?

“Right now we have about 10,000 masks,” said Hampton. “And another 5,000 coming to us.”

Students will be encouraged to bring their own, reusable, masks but Hampton noted that both child-sized and adult-sized disposable masks will be furnished to teachers, and the district is working with parent groups to supply donated cloth masks before the opening of schools.

Will the district provide childcare support for families unable to be at home with their student on the remote weeks?

At present, no. Hampton acknowledged the burden the approved bi-weekly in-person instruction plan presents to families but the district does not have the funding nor infrastructure set up to support additional childcare for families unable to keep students at home during their assigned remote weeks.

Levies

While all members of the board expressed their intention to not propose both a bond issue for new schools on the general election ballot and an emergency operating levy on the ballot, the board supported by vote both options to allow for removal of one by the end of September.

“Two levies, just the appearance of that… people are already asking why two,” said Board Member Stacey Hall.

Board Member Russ Garrison noted that while the pandemic continues to influence how school districts are able to provide instruction, especially in older buildings without the ability nor finances to support larger-space learning, the district must consider not only the impacts to the fall semester of the 2020 school year but the potential impacts into all of 2021 and the spring semester of 2022.

The motion to approve a resolution for an emergency tax levy at 2.74 mills was approved by Hall, Bill Hutchinson and Garrison with Doug Mallett and Mark Duckworth voting against.

“The discussion reflected the intent to not have both issues on the ballot in November,” said Garrison following the lengthy discussion.

“I think the public needs to understand that too,” said Hall. “But we need to look at options to keep this school system going.”

“I voted yes with the understanding that one or both will be pulled,” agreed Hutchinson. “This just gives us options for making the best choices.”

Mallett also called for another special board meeting in August before the regular meeting scheduled at the end of the month.

Garrison noted that Gov. Mike DeWine also reiterated Thursday that meetings in-person of 10 persons or more are prohibited.

“We should not have an event in-person that could contribute to the spread,” said Garrison. “We’re talking about the desire to be fully… in-person. We have just as much of a chance to go fully remote.”

Discussion continued to provide a citizen forum but no consensus on how that would be furnished was reached.

Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. was scheduled for the virtual citizens’ forum.

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