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Students’ Parents Express Concerns, Gough Addresses School Board

By Marlana Smith

  The North Shelby School Board met on Wednesday, Sept. 16 in the high school gym. Multiple people from the public attended the meeting and four addressed the board.

  Public Comment

  Casie Frala spoke on behalf of her daughter who has been in quarantine.

  “As you guys know, I have a daughter who has had three knee surgeries in two years and it’s a lot of trauma. Because of this she has spent weeks and weeks on end confined to bed and home,” Frala said.

  Frala expressed the opinion that sometimes it’s not always in the best interest of children to be at home, especially for long periods of time.

  “My point with this is, her quarantine is supposed to start at the last point of contact, which was on Friday, Sept. 4,” Frala said.

  “I am hoping that her quarantine would end at 12:01, that would be her 14 days and I just want to get her back into school as soon as possible so she can get back into her classroom.”

  Frala asked the board to try and keep all the kids in school as long as possible.

  “I know that’s you want, but at the end of their 14 days, let them back,” Frala added, “so kids like my daughter can get back to extra-curricular activities, get back in the classroom to get the education she needs.

  “I also know there are kids that rely on school for food and for other emotional support,” Frala added.

  Jason Daniel addressed the board about things he had seen on the CDC (Centers of Disease Control and Prevention) website.

  Daniel advised the board that CDC counts by the hour for quarantine, not by the day. An example on its website was of a kid who was in contact at noon and their quarantine was up at noon, two weeks from then.

  “The Shelby County Health Dept. set their own guidelines on top of the CDC guidelines,” Daniel said.

  Daniel said he had a discussion with a woman from another health dept. on Wednesday, Sept. 16.

  “She said they started to have push back from parents when school started and other activities. They backed up and started looking at the CDC guidelines and are doing what they recommended and what is legal.

  “I believe we have six or seven kids that are quarantined and told they can’t come to school until Monday, well they could come back to school Friday, if we follow the CDC guidelines and were not in Shelby County,” Daniel said.

  Daniel communicated to the board he would like support from them to try to encourage the health dept. to follow the CDC guidelines and not add to it.

  “We could get our kids in one day sooner, but right now we can’t, they are missing school for actually 15 days,” Daniel added.

  Daniel informed the board that on the CDC website, the bottom line says, “‘14 days counting by hours.’”

  The last person to address the board was Clint Prange.

  Prange informed the board he had talked to the County Prosecuting Attorney as well as heard from the State’s Attorney General’s Office to understand what pieces are in place.

  “As I understand from Jordan Force (Prosecuting Attorney) is that if the board decided to act against to what the Public Health Administration has given you, it’s not your liability, it would be up to the parents or guardians for liability,” Prange said, “It would be a misdemeanor that the Public Health Administrator would file. It would up to Jordan at that time to determine if she would want to push that forward.”

  Prange said to his understanding from the Attorney General’s Office, there are none of those cases that have been brought forth to their knowledge right now.

  “I just ask that we come together as a community in Shelby County. We have a long way to go. Let’s have common sense. I ask that we think about that for our students and children for our future as well,” Prange added.

  School Supt. Kim Gaines told the Herald via email, “A school district can be held liable for not following local health department regulations. We are under their jurisdiction in matters of public health.”

Shelby County Health Department Administrator Audrey Gough commended the administration for all its hard work and all the hours it has put in during the pandemic.

  Gough said on Thursday, Sept. 3 her dept. received word a 14-year-old student had tested positive. A second case came on Sunday at 9 a.m. and a third on Monday.

  “Kim Gaines and Kerri Greenwell looked at everything that we had talked about in the plan. I asked for seating charts for all the kids, so it would be easy to identify and, on the buses, too,” Gough said.

  Gough said because of the three positive cases, there were 37 students in quarantine.

  Gough explained the policy she wrote back in March when she had the first case of COVID-19. The policy states, ‘It’s 14 days and it ends at 11:59 p.m. on the 14th day.’

  “My reasoning for this is because we have had people who have tested positive on the 14th day – one of those people died two weeks later,” Gough added.

  Gough said she had another young person who tested negative and on day 14 became symptomatic and was positive.

  “It’s my job, the health dept’s job, to protect and prevent as much illness and disease, especially in a pandemic,” Gough continued, “My fear is that letting someone come back to school at 8 a.m. or noon and then they spike a fever would send that person into isolation and all those around them into quarantine.

  “We start all over again because we exposed a new group of kids to a positive case that they didn’t have to be exposed to. The goal is keeping the kids in school as much as possible. I do not want these kids at home. But if (emphasis added) they are a close contact then they have to go into quarantine.

  “But we have to look at the whole picture. We have to protect not only our children, we have to protect the workforce in this building,” Gough said.

  Gough informed the board there are children who have vulnerabilities and children with asthma are three times more likely to end up in the hospital if they contract COVID.

  “It’s not just about the virus now, it’s the long-term affect in what it can do to your children and what it can do to these adults,” Gough said, “I understand it’s a burden for parents. I know it’s hard on the kids, but this is not going away. This is here for the whole school year.”

  Gough said she does follow the CDC guidelines.

  “I also can enhance those guidelines as long as I don’t do less than what the CDC says, I can do more if I feel there is a need,” Gough added, “Three students at a small rural school is reason for concern. I am not planning on changing that policy. I have full support of my board and my staff.

  “We want to minimize the total number of times we have to put people in quarantine. But, by law every time you’re considered to be a close contact to a positive case it’s by law, 14 days.

  Gough said Jordan Force is working on a quarantine order so that it is in writing which will put the law of the quarantine order officially in place.

  Board member Joshlin Yoder asked Gough, if there was enough data for the board to go above what CDC guidelines are.

  Gough said, “Yes. I’ve got two cases in my county that tested positive on the 14th day and one of those folks died. That’s all the data I need.”

  Yoder asked if there was some kind of mask policy, if it would affect anything.

  Gough explained she would be all for it, if she could get people when wearing a mask to make sure their nose is covered and not around their neck.

  “Because that would lessen all the number of children in the building being exposed, plus teachers. But, we can’t. We’re still trying to get that through to the federal government, but we cannot make those rules changes on our own,” Gough said, “Kim, Kerri and I have worked really hard all summer to get plans in place. I didn’t pick 14 days, CDC did because the incubation period is two to 14 days.

  Gough said she talked to Force on Wednesday, Sept. 16 about an ER doctor and the doctor told Force the majority of patients they are seeing are on day 10 thru 14 of their quarantine.

  “When I hear that knowledge and that basis, and I have had at least two that are currently in this county, I am going to be vigilant and stick to 11:59 on the night of the 14th day,” Gough said.

  Board member Brandy Uhlmeyer said, “This was asked to me. ‘Once a student or person test positive, and let’s say they’re re-exposure that comes down, are they immune from being quarantined again?’” Gough replied, “Yes, up to 90 days. If one of these positive kids comes in contact with somebody else who is positive and they are identified as close contact, we would not be putting them in quarantine.”

    Gough informed the board of an incident that the Macon county Health Dept. had on a quarantine violation.

Gough explained to the board if someone violates quarantine it is a class A misdemeanor which would be a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. Our governor has said, ‘If you have people not obeying the quarantine law, put it in place.’ I hope I never have to do that.

  “I am trying to be careful. I know you think that it’s not my job, but it is. By state statute we have to adhere to and enforce the law of public health. That is what a public health is. We are to prevent disease and to promote health. Those are two big things we work on every day,” Gough said.

  Other Public Comments

  The board received thank you’s from the Larry Thrasher family for its memorial. Annette Donath and Glori Siebert also thanked the board for the plaques they received for their retirement.

  High School Principal Report

  Kerri Greenwell provided the following information to the board:

  Seniors ordered caps and gowns, and sophomores ordered class rings on Sept. 9.

  Delta Theta Tau will be hosting the Student Council’s blood drive on Sept. 23 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Bethel Christian Church.

  Elementary Principal Report

  Monica Hinshaw provided the following information to the board:

  Data team meetings were held Sept. 3. Students benefit from teacher collaboration that takes place during these meeting as we work to meet the needs of all our students.

   New Business

  The A+ Handbook changes were approved.

  The board will discuss at next month’s meeting an opportunity to present a “no tax increase” bond issue for $1.7 million at the April 2021 election. The board will need to decide in the next couple of months if it wants to pursue this opportunity.

  Gaines told the board the high school gym needs a new roof replacement, as well as the HVAC in the high school.  Gaines asked the board to be thinking of other projects for a possible issue to discuss at next month’s meeting.

  The October board meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m.

  Executive Session

  In executive session, the board voted 6-0-1 (abstained—Scot Shively) to employ Todd Greenwell as a volunteer assistant varsity football coach for this season. The board also voted 7-0 to employ Mitch Schmidt as a varsity football assistant coach. All votes taken were roll call votes.