Gilman follows plan, makes masks optional for now
Board members approve moving ahead with prom May 1 and graduation ceremony May 28
When it comes to COVID-19, few things have proved as thorny an issue as people’s stance on masking. With many counties and schools around the state continuing to require masks, challenges and demonstrations against those mandates flare up almost as quickly as a COVID-19 outbreak.
The Gilman School District is not immune to those issues, and has seen its own fair share of feelings regarding masks, with some in support and others against. The board of education revisited the issue of masking, and the public made their feelings known.
Lynn Rosemeyer was one community member who was in favor of removing the district’s masks requirements. During public comments she told the board much has changed since the board last visited the issue in February, and since the virus first reached the United States.
She cited a decline in cases in the area and the creation and implementation of three vaccines for COVID- 19 as reasons to lift the mask requirement.
“I’m here tonight to ask the board to consider changing their mask mandate,” Lynn Rosemeyer began. “All the adults who have wanted to take the vaccine have the opportunity to do so. All the staff have been offered the vaccine.
Rosemeyer shared information she had found online about students across the nation facing difficulties concentrating in class while wearing masks. She told the board masks were contributing to poor mental health among students, and challenged the board to lift the district’s mask requirements.
“The risks are very minimal; in Taylor County there are only seven active cases at this time and zero hospitalizations. . . . this is not March 2020 anymore it’s April 2021 . . . give our children six weeks of normalcy. Please get the masks off their faces and let them see the smiles on their friends’ faces, their teachers faces’ and let them breathe.”
Later in the meeting the board picked up the concerns and issues surrounding masking. Leipart said the district’s hesitation back in February stemmed from uncertainty that still surrounded COVID-19, lack of available vaccines, and a second wave that swept through the country during the winter months that led to higher numbers.
Leipert said they continued to use the masks so as not to jeopardize spring sports, graduation or prom, and was done in the best interest of students health and safety.
“Remember from Day One that we have always looked at this as a living document that we would adapt as new information came in,” Leipert said. “All of our decisions and plans are based on our best current view. We put together a response protocol that was backed by data, backed by science, and supported by the Taylor County health department.”
Leipert revealed that the district has not had a positive COVID-19 case in two months. The board also learned that according to a recent survey of the staff, nearly 80 percent were in favor of suspending the facial mask requirement.
As board president Bruce Ewings said, “Teachers want to teach, not be disciplinarians.”
As a result in the decline of cases and public and staff support in favor of removing masks, the board passed a motion that will suspend the facial requirement from district effective immediately, while continuing to observe the district’s COVID-19 protocols. If cases increase beyond ten percent of the district, masking will be required once more.
Wilson to full-time librarian
Among the more significant changes the board made on Monday was approving a motion that will move Jamie Wilson, a first grade teacher at Gilman Elementary, to a full-time librarian and media specialist for the district.
Wilson, who has been an educator in Gilman for the past twenty years spoke to the board and requested the move. She believes this move to media specialist will allow her to help students with their language arts skills and help promote and develop a love of reading and writing amongst students in the district.
“There’s been a lot of research about positive academic effects of a strong library program. When a media specialist partners with teachers, good things can happen,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the district’s library has many resources. She said resources can be used in school and beyond.
“Kids, no matter their age, need access to books, but books are not enough, students need to be introduced to authors, characters, topics and genres. By partnering with teachers, I can become another layer in our reading curriculum.”
Leipart said the district can use funds from AGR (Achievement Gap Reduction) funding to pay for the move, and that this move will help student performances.
“We are changing the trajectory of our kids,” said Leipart. “We have higher reading engagement and higher writer engagement than we ever had . . .this will help kids reach higher.”
_ The board approved a motion to use ESSER II funds to make improvements to the school’s HVAC and boiler replacement projects. The funds will cover the nearly $500,000 for the parts and installation.
_ The board approved junior prom for Saturday, May 1. The event will be held in the elementary school gym. The district asks that capacity exceed no more than 50 percent, and that guests are limited to four per student. Prom will start at 7 p.m., and coronation will begin at 8 p.m.
_ Gilman’s graduation ceremonies will be held in the high school gym on May 28, beginning at 7 p.m. Social distancing will be promoted and graduates are limited to ten tickets per guest.
_ Senior awards night will be held on May 19 at 6 p.m. There will be a limit of ten guests per senior, and family groups will be seated in pods.
_ The board approved the hires of Roger Halida (Assistant Softball Coach), Corey Tallier (Assistant H.S. Track Coach / Junior High Coach), Jen Eckert (Co-Director for Summer School and Summer Rec), Jessica Carlson (Co-Director for Summer School and Summer Rec), Shelby Couillard (Health Aide) and Jamie Wilson (Librarian/Instructional Coach).
_ The board approved the resignations of Patricia Larson (Kitchen Staff), Kathy Olejnichak (Science Teacher) and the retirement of Kim Trawicki.