The special meeting of the Yaak School Board of Trustees was called to order by Chairperson, Pam Fuqua, at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday September 11, 2021, at the Yaak Rod and Gun Club outdoor pavilion. Pam opened the meeting and stated that the meeting was being recorded and reviewed how the meeting was going to be run. She invited attendees to put their email address by their name on the sign in sheet if they wanted to be on the school email list. She apologized to the group for the way the August meeting was conducted and described the process for public participation in this and future meetings. The policy for punlic participation was dispersed. She reminded everyone that it was imperative that we be kind and respectful to one another.
Trustees Present: Pam Fuqua, Trish Lauer, and Sandy Beder-Miller
Others Present: Diane Downey, District Clerk, Sabre Alderete, Head Teacher, Craig Johnson Custodian/Maintenance, Bill Sullivan, Larry Miller, Randy Wilson, Robyn King, Kathy Huber, John Huber, Taralee McFadden, Ken Krauss, Chert Javaorsky, LeeAnn Sanders, Dori Goodwin, Bob Zaccheo, Kristy Hensell, Don Clrell, Sue Janssen, Jim Wilson, Karen Hoster, Pat McFadden, Bob Goodwin, Claire Warpole, Mary Campbell, and David Gambill.
List of Those Present That Wished to be Heard:
Robyn King, Craig Johnson, Larry Miller, Dori Goodwin, Kathy Huber, LeeAnn Sanders and Ron Webb
Pam stated the purpose for the meeting and spoke to the increase of Covid cases in Lincoln County and how we go forward to protect students and staff.
Sandy stated that at this time we only have three (3) students, and they are siblings. Two of them and their mother have had Covid all ready. She stated that she has been very vocal regarding her dislike of some of the recommended protocols and feels that we are doing enough now to keep the students and staff safe. Sandy stated that yes, for a large school the restrictions would be necessary, but not in the Yaak School. A blanket policy will not work for all Montana schools.
Trish mentioned that one of the things that has changed since we decided to rescind the wearing of masks and put in place the waiver for social distancing is our student body as increased by one student that is not yet in the classroom full time but will be in the future.
Trish stated that she looks at the Lincoln County Covid numbers daily and they are skyrocketing. She stated the numbers and made some comparisons to CDC national averages and Lincoln County at present is way above the levels of new infections considered to be high per the CDC. She really wants our school to continue to have in person classes and feels that indoor mask requirements are a line of defense that would decrease the chance of infection among students, staff and the public that may enter the school. Her recommendation at this time is to go with the option in Policy 1905 that requires masks be worn while in the school.
Sabre’ gave us a bit of background on her new students’ participation in the classroom. She explained her misgivings regarding distance learning and how important she feels it is to keep the students in the classroom where she feels they are getting a better understanding of what she is teaching, and she has that one-on-one opportunity to see and assist them where they may be struggling. She stated she is still taking precautions in the classroom but of the three (3) students in the classroom at this time two (2) of them are coughing and sneezing. Even though it is more than likely just the sniffles it does make her nervous. She has also been watching the stats, our Special Education Cooperative which serves all the Lincoln County and Sanders County schools has gone to no in person visits to any of the schools they serve and is at this time doing distance learning only as Sanders County school district has two (2) positive tested staff at this time. She feels putting mandatory masking back in place will add one more layer of protection for her students and herself. She stated that mandatory masks were the policy last year and she feels that it did not affect her ability to teacher, nor did it have an adverse effect on her students. Diane stated that she would be okay with a mask mandate even though she does not believe they stop the transmission of the virus. She is unvaccinated and if wearing a mask while working at the school is something the Board and Teacher feel will protect others, she would do it. Craig Johnson stated that the school has a responsibility to take whatever action they feel will protect the students, the staff, and the school’s liability if no action was to be taken to protect against this health issue. He feels parents need to be responsible as well and make the decision as to what is best for their children. Pam asked if the staff or board members had any other comments.
As all had stated their piece Pam moved on to Public Comment on the subject calling on members of the audience as they were listed on the Request to be Heard signup sheet. (See above list of those individuals)
Once those folks had been given an opportunity to speak Pam called for anyone that had not spoken that wanted an opportunity to do so raise their hand. Those individuals were heard. The following list are those that spoke that are not list above: Claire Warpole, Sue Janssen, Pat McFadden, and Taralee McFadden County Superintendent of Schools.
At this time Pam explained to the audience that our school uses the Montana School Boards Associations rural schools model policy manual as a guideline for the policies the school adopts. The board viewed the options of policy 1905 regarding options for mask wearing and social distancing. Pam called for board discussion on those options. Trish feels we can stay with option two (2) for the social distancing but feels that they should change to option one (1) which would require masks be worn in the school until further notice. Sandy agrees with the social distance policy as it stands but feels that mask wearing should be left up to the students’ parents and the individual staff members. She would like the masking policy to stay as it was decided upon at last month’s meeting. Pam feels that the masking option should be changed to mandatory and social distancing can say the same. There was some inquiry as to how long the change the board will be voting on today would last. Trish stated that the board plans on revisiting the masking policy as we go forward and as soon as they feel a change is in order it will be addressed at a monthly or if need be, a special meeting. Craig asked that option one (1) be read in its entirety. Diane asked if parents can opt out of the masking policy? Pat McFadden clarified the new DPHHS rule regarding schools offering an opt out policy for mask wearing. This directive does not mandate that schools have an opt out rule in place; it only suggests that that option be considered. Pam made a motion to adopt option one (1) making masks mandatory in the school. Motion passed with two (2) yes votes and one (1) no vote.
Pam asked if there was public comment on any other topic. All those that had input were allowed to speak.
Pam thanked everyone for coming and adjourned the meeting at 11:12 p.m.
Anyone wishing to hear comments from the public in detail can contact the District Clerk and set a time to review the recording of those comments.