H-D board talks about masks and weight room policy

Travis Fischer

The Hampton-Dumont community school board discussed mask policy, alternative school locations, weight room use, and open enrollment transportation during their regular meeting on Monday, August 16.

With the school year approaching, the board held a brief discussion about mask policy on school busses as COVID-19 continues to be a concern.

The CDC has recommended that masks be used on busses while the Iowa Department of Public Health's guidance has been less cautious. Governor Kim Reynolds has prohibited state run agencies, including school districts, from implementing mandatory mask policies and has shown no sign of reversing that decision. However, legal analysis of a federal executive order issued earlier this year suggests that bus routes, considered public transportation, would not apply.

The board discussed the pros and cons of trying to implement a mask policy specifically for busses, ultimately deciding that trying to get students to wear a mask only at the start and end of the day would likely be more trouble than it would be worth.

"I think it would be very difficult,"

said Superintendent Todd Lettow. It was noted the district's bus drivers have been consulted and all of them have been vaccinated and are comfortable with not having a mask requirement.

Also related to COVID fallout, the board discussed options for the district's alternative school. The number of students that have needed the alternative school environment has been low, however, in the wake of the pandemic, that trend is starting to reverse.

"We saw the number of students grew quite a bit," said Director of Innovative Programs Steve Madson.

With more students in need of an alternative environment to succeed, this has created the challenge of finding an appropriate space for them in a district that is already short on room.

Options considered included repurposing some space in the transportation garage or borrowing a room at the Church of the Living Word. However, without yet knowing exactly how many students will be using the alternative school, it's difficult to know how much room the school will need.

"The number of students is the variable right now," said Madson.

In other business, the board discussed the school's weight room and its policy regarding after hours use by school staff. While use of the school weight room has been considered a perk for school employees, there have been reports of non-employees also using the facility, creating a potential liability for the district.

While the board was not prepared to set a comprehensive policy regarding who exactly should have access to the weight room and how it should be monitored, they did agree that non-employees should not be using the room outside of normal use and staff that allow non-employees access will be reprimanded.

Finally, the board discussed the district's open enrollment transportation policy. The family of an open-enrolled North Butler student that lives right on the district line had requested that North Butler be allowed to pick-up that student on their bus route. Seeing as the North Butler bus route already passes the student's house, the request seems simple enough. However, to the frustration of both the family and the board, district borders are fiercely protected. While some on the H-D board would be willing to make the exception, past experience has shown that neighboring districts have been unwilling to make that concession when the situation was reversed for fear of the precedent it would set.

While the board denied the request, it was suggested that they meet with North Butler to see if an agreement can be negotiated that would offer more flexibility to families that straddle the district's border.

"These are our neighbors," said board member Chad Hanson. "We should have talks with our neighbors about these things."

The H-D board will meet again on September 13 at 5:30 p.m. for a joint meeting with the CAL school board in Latimer.

Their next regular meeting will be held on September 20 at 5:30 p.m.


Hampton Chronicle

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Hampton, IA 50441
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