Quarantine, public participation issues raised at council meeting

APPLE CREEK – “It just doesn’t make sense to quarantine healthy children,” Jodi Barkman said of current quarantine practices at local schools in the Southeast.

“I’m just arguing for a return to common sense protocol, where parents and students can make those decisions and where we can assess for children whether they are healthy enough to go to school or not.”

It was a mindset shared by many as others raised questions and concerns about current quarantine practices at the district board meeting on Monday night. Some people even asked about how to properly address the board in order to get more feedback from the board.

Each board member shared their own comments on the questions and, but all said they would be happy to meet and talk more individually due to the open meeting rules.

Community asks quarantine questions with board commentary

Of the approximately 20 to 30 people gathered in the auditorium of John R. Lea Middle School, four people put various questions to the board.

Amy Miller of Fredericksburg asked the board if board members had done their own research, reviewed protocols at other schools in Wayne County, and if they had spoken with anyone from the health department.

Most members said they did their own research, but not as many spoke directly with someone from Wayne County Health Department. All members said they at least read some information on the website or information shared with them.

Following the board’s responses, Barkman asked if board members were okay with “quarantining healthy children” and what their data or reasoning was behind the decision.

Members of the Southeast Local School Board listen to Treasurer Mark Dickerhoof, far right, share updates on school funding at the board meeting on October 18, 2021.

Three of the four board members agreed that they were doing their best to keep the kids in school, with things like social distancing, to avoid quarantines, but that enforcing them when the distancing didn’t is not possible is what they should do as directed.

A board member, Matt McKelvey, disagreed with his fellow board members, saying he “doesn’t believe in the guidelines right now.”

When asked how community members could reach out to the whole board and have more time to talk, Superintendent James Ritchie explained that because of how the Ohio Sunshine Laws work, if more than three board members meet, this should be considered a public meeting and would therefore meet the three minute time limit for public participation.

The four board members said they were happy to meet people one-on-one, but couldn’t get together as a large group.

Wayne County Health Department Rules and Enforcement

Ritchie, along with several board members, thanked community members who shared their thoughts and concerns. Ritchie also said he understands their frustrations and explained how difficult it has been to get changes.

In an Oct. 14 meeting with other Wayne County superintendents and county health commissioner Nick Cascarelli, Ritchie said many had said they were in favor of changing the quarantine rules.

According to Ritchie, several people at the meeting, including Cascarelli, were in favor of changing the Wayne County quarantine guidelines to follow the new Medina County quarantine guidelines.

The new guidelines allow students to stay in school during their quarantine period if they wear a mask, according to an article in The Gazette.

While many meeting attendees supported the suggestion, Ritchie said it was not approved by the Wayne County Health Board. The board said it still wants to follow guidelines the Ohio Department of Health has shared regarding quarantine practices.

No changes were made by council to current quarantine practices in the district during the meeting.

Other things to know about the board meeting

There will be a district-wide Veterans Day event on November 9 called Tour of Honor where veterans will visit schools throughout the day.

The superintendent shared on behalf of Dave Troyer, who was not present at the meeting, that some parents from the Holmesville baseball team have expressed interest in rebuilding the concession stand on the field.

The next board meeting will be on November 15 at 5:30 p.m. at Waynedale High School.

Contact Rachel Karas at [email protected]

Twitter: @ RachelKaras3

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