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Union Local meets in person, looks toward new school year

BELMONT — The Union Local School District Board of Education met in person last Thursday to review several issues including the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus and what will be necessary to begin the next school year.

For the past two months, the board had met online. They met at the district last week while taking appropriate precautions.

Superintendent Ben Porter said the district is still determining what next year will look like.

“Obviously the goal is to have kids back in school as much as we possibly can,” he said, adding he expects to receive state guidelines soon. “We’re going to look at those closely. We’ll be talking to other area schools to help formulate that plan and try to work together on identifying ideas.”

Porter said he believes the school setting is best conductive to learning, and many of the district parents work.

“They depend on that consistency, with schools being open,” he said.

There are many factors to consider in terms of safety.

“Obviously the cleaning and sanitizing’s going to be of utmost importance,” he said. “We’re waiting to see what social distancing guidelines are going to take place. … The challenge of having little ones wear masks, we realize there’s a lot of variables there.”

Porter said he and staff continue to discuss the COVID situation into this week.

“To further bounce around ideas and to gather information from surveys. Talk about information from the surveys from our parents, also from our staff,” he said.

The board also heard from Sheri McElroy, teacher with the district’s drama club, regarding plans to perform Cinderella. She brought up the possibility students might livestream the play if possible.

“We’d like to do what we can,” Porter said. “It’s just up in the air right now still. We’re waiting on the guidelines to come down from the state.”

No date for the play has been set for this time. Porter commented on the work put into the performances.

“They do a good job with their shows. It’s a shame they were unable to do it (live in the auditorium),” he said.

The board also recognized Elsa Bretz, who had served as a student board member, and who achieved a 5.124 grade point average, the highest in Union Local’s history. She will attend Brown University.

Porter said she and fellow student board member Luke Snyder hopefully found their time serving on the board in non-voting roles to be a rewarding experience.

The board also delayed a proposal to determine oil and gas assessed values. Porter said the board was being cautious about spending.

“The board didn’t feel like that was a necessity at this point,” Porter said.

The board also tabled a proposal to conduct a baseline indoor air quality assessment of the high school and middle school building and to gather more quotes. The quote received from Lawhon & Associates was close to $16,000.

Also, the board will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 30 at the high school commons to review end-of-fiscal-year matters and any other issues necessary.

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