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UL bouncing back from COVID

Union Local Superintendent Ben Porter cleans desks following a board meeting Thursday. The district continues to operate during the coronavirus pandemic.

BELMONT — Union Local School District is back to full-time, in-person learning after beginning the school year with a quarter of the student body attending in person at any one time and the rest learning online.

The number of students was first increased to half the population, and in more recent weeks to full attendance.

So far this school year, Union Local has reported one case of a person testing positive for COVID-19.

During Thursday’s school board meeting, Superintendent Ben Porter commended the staff and students for their adaptability and conscientiousness in taking steps to guard against spreading the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our students have done a very good job in mask-wearing and social distancing,” he said. “The principals in each building have done an outstanding job as well.”

He pointed to Athletic Director Nick Nardo’s work.

“Being an athletic director during a pandemic is extremely challenging, and Nick has worked as hard as he can to give our kids as many opportunities as they can,” he said. “He’s really evaluated situations and made decisions in the best interests of our kids.”

Currently, Union Local has school four days a week, with one remote-learning day to allow for cleaning. Porter said officials plan to resume school five days a week beginning Nov. 2.

In financial matters, board member Shaun Roe said the outlook is largely positive, despite the unexpected expenses of the COVID-19 pandemic and the reduction of about $45,000 a month in state funding.

“Our finances, because of good management from my perspective, have actually been positive for the year,” Roe said. “Despite the challenges that’s presented us with, we’ve been able to educate the students in a good way and provide a good learning environment.”

“We were able to get some federal funds to help defray the costs,” Treasurer Janet Hissrich said. “There’s still going to be a hit on the general fund.”

She said expenses included air scrubbers for all of the rooms at a cost of $161,000.

Another addition is water bottle filling stations, activated without touch, to replace water fountains, as well as isolation rooms and portable sinks.

“We spent a lot of money,” she said.

Hissrich said a five-year financial forecast would be presented to the board in November.

This has also meant many of the board’s plans to improve facilities at the campus have been delayed.

Board member Terry Puperi reported the district is restarting the community relations committee to advise the board and foster cohesion among the communities in Union Local School District. They hope to begin meetings once a month.

“We want community members on it to be a liaison between us as a district and the community,” Puperi said.

“The school is the center of the community,” board member Koel Davia said.

Anyone wishing to participate can call the superintendent’s office at 740-782-1979 and ask for Porter.

Regarding the planned senior trip to Orlando, Florida, from May 3-7, Kayla Mathias, math teacher and co-adviser for the class of 2021, reported the district is acquiring insurance to recoup all but the initial deposit should the trip not go forward.

“If our entire trip would need to be canceled, then all 50 of the students that we’re taking with us would only be out their deposit,” she said. The initial deposit is between $100 and $150. “The main concern is what are we doing if the entire trip gets canceled if conditions get worse and don’t get better.”

The total cost per student is about $530.

She said morale among many of the students is high, with adjustments to returning to school during pandemic conditions.

“I think that they are happy to be back and have some sense of normalcy,” Mathias said. “I think that they’re happy to be back and happy to have the things that we can have.”

She added that the district was able to hold a homecoming crowning Wednesday night. Baylee Magnani was crowned homecoming queen and Brady Crum homecoming king.

“We had the football players and the band and the cheerleaders and the volleyball team,” she said. It was a good evening.”

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