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K-12 COVID mask mandate remains

Superintendent Ben Dalton addressed members of the public attending the March 9, meeting of the Kane District Board of Education. Several parents were in attendance to urge school board members to terminate the mask mandate in schools, due to the passage of House Bill 294- PANDEMIC EMERGENCY POWERS AMENDMENTS.

The Utah Legislature passed House Bill 294, establishing the “termination of emergency powers and certain public health orders related to COVID-19 upon reaching certain thresholds of positivity rates, vaccination, and other criteria.” The bill makes an exception to that termination for schools, providing that “a public health order issued by the Department of Health issued pursuant to a public health emergency declared by the Department of Health pertaining to response to COVID-19 and the COVID-19 emergency that pertains to public health safety measures in a K-12 school may remain in place.” Therefore, legislators gave the discretion to remove the school mask mandate solely to the Department of Health.

Superintendent Dalton stated that school boards do not have the power to end the mask mandate.

In addition, Board President Loral Linton noted that a school district is required to follow direction from the Governor and State and local health departments, and explained that if the school district does not, it could lose State funding. The parents who spoke at the meeting were against mask mandates. Several commented that the district should not follow the government mandates and one actually suggested that the school district should not accept state and federal funding.

Dalton gave the board a legislative update, noting that the funding for the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) has been terminated. This money funded additional math and science teaching in the district. He reviewed the Governor’s Executive Order 2021-6 regarding vaccination plans. He presented the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) Safe Participation protocols for spring sports. The protocols include mandatory mask wearing at events for spectators, maximization of social distancing, symptom checking, and a requirement that schools shall provide ongoing training for all coaches, advisors and game personnel on COVID-19 risk mitigation strategies and protocols, including a reminder of protocols before competitions. The policy states that games may be delayed, suspended or cancelled for noncompliance. There is a specific section with specific cleaning and distancing requirements for each springtime sport. Performing arts best practices are set forth as well.

District Business Manager Cary Reese updated the board on the budget and elementary school construction. He reported that the legislature passed a Supplemental Educator COVID stipend for certified and classified school district employees. The stipend amount is $1,500 for a full-time certified employee and $1,000 for a full-time classified employee.

District Career and Technical Education (CTE) Director Rod Quarnberg presented a plan to begin an internship program at Valley High School (VHS). Kanab High School (KHS) already has a CTE work-based program.

Work-based learning is a federally-supported program in CTE that connects workplaces to the classroom to prepare students for real world careers. Students can participate in a paid or unpaid internship at a particular workplace, and receive classroom credit. Quarnberg explained that participating students must fill out an application, have an education plan, a portfolio on career oriented social media site LinkedIn and must report their work activity weekly to a school supervisor.

Noting the benefits to students, he plans to begin the internship program at VHS the fourth quarter of this school year.

The school board approved the 2021-2022 Proposed School Fee Schedule; KHS Baseball, Softball and Track & Field schedules and two 150-mile requests; one Lake Powell School Early Graduation request and Policy DBF regarding the payment of long-term substitute teachers.

In other business, the board accepted the resignation of Valley Elementary School (VES) Principal and teacher Brandon Jensen and the retirement of Kanab Elementary School (KES) teacher Rosa DeMille. Congratulations to Mr. Jensen on his new position with Washington County, and to Mrs. DeMille, who worked for the Kane District for over 20 years, at both VES and KES.




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