🏫 School Board Enthusiasts 🏫 The UnifiEd Student Voice Team's School Board Blog
Emboldened by the students in her class and the family she will be missing on the holidays; Heather Modrow addresses the floor with a passionate and personal P.S.A. to the Hamilton County board...
members. She implored them to wear their masks “correctly,” among other points to help slow the spread of COVID-19. “When you pull your mask away [from your mouth] to speak, that defeats the purpose of wearing a mask.”
While listening to her speech, there was a tone of disdain and frustration. As an observer of past board meetings, I’ve noticed certain members who continuously kept their masks hanging on their ears or below their noses. I can only speculate that her tone may stem from a disappointment from our board to take all preventive measures to flatten the curve and stay committed to the safety pledge they all agreed to. I can’t help but empathize with her frustration, as students and teachers alike look to the board to set the right example. Her bravery and passion for addressing these issues and advising the board to do their part in and out of office is nothing short of inspiring.
Jennifer Bronson gave the COVID Task Force update presentation. She started by reviewing Hamilton County’s response to COVID from Spring 2020. HCS provided families with food, assistance with technology, and guidance counselors got together to create a care team to stay in touch with all students.
The School Reopening Task Force consists of parents, teachers, principals, community and district leaders, and even students. Every decision for reopening schools is based on students and the effects and implications for teaching and learning. These members worked over the summer to be able to open schools in person. Through these decisions, these members were the source of ideas and put out multiple surveys to seek feedback and opinions from students and parents across all of Hamilton County. With all the feedback received, the task force came up with the school reopening plan with the phase tracker and introduced the SAFE pledge. The phase tracker has changed for the second semester after conducting another survey. There are now different applications on different phases for different grades. K-3 will follow a different one than 4-12 as it is harder for younger aged students to handle online school.
The task force also worked to implement sources to make up for the lost learning in the spring with the HCS Summer Learning Challenge and the Summer REACH program, which reached over 3,000 students. They also worked hard behind the scenes to distribute and get the right equipment to safely open schools, such as hand sanitizers, face shields, face masks, boxes of gloves, thermometers, etc. HCS has also connected with EPB to allow online students access to the internet, which has been recognized nationally.
Hamilton County’s response to the pandemic has been amazing despite a few bumps. Even though not everyone will react the same to the decisions made, the COVID Task Force has worked hard and met with medical professionals to make the best decisions possible for students and teachers’ health and education. Click the links to keep up with week-to-week updates on phases and COVID case data.
With COVID-19 increasing as a threat within our everyday lives beyond what has been shown in the past eight months, it is essential that we remain vigilant and concerned about the spaces we are sending staff and students into. Ultimately, the decision to go into phase two and then into phase one was going to be inevitable, in my opinion. I was glad to see the school board concerned about the rising amount of COVID-19 cases. It seemed to me like the severity of COVID-19 spread was finally beginning to hit in the last school board meeting and that the members could no longer just shove it aside and hope it’d eventually go away. It was hopeful to see the members discussing what they believe could happen, as well as the phase state, and it showed me that at least a fair majority of the board is beginning to realize COVID-19 is the most pressing issue for students to date. That being said, there still are members who would like to brush away this issue and send children back to school, and they should be held accountable for their ignorance. Hamilton County is at risk, and we need all of our leaders to take the mantle of responsibility.
Throughout this month's school board meeting, I could not help but be annoyed. The school board meeting has relied solely on virtual broadcasting to stream the meetings to the public for nearly ten months now. However, technical problems just keep getting worse. Typically, the meeting volume is the thing that is frustrating about watching the board meetings virtually, yet this month, the audio was crackling throughout the entire board meeting. The overall audio and video quality of this meeting made it nearly impossible to watch. This is just another area within the Hamilton County Schools where it appears that the School Board is so focused on touting their accomplishments that they are losing perspective of what still needs to be fixed.
The other thing about this School Board meeting which absolutely infuriated me was, as usual, the situation with mask enforcement. Compared to most past meetings, it seems that the school board was doing better about removing masks for drinks or speaking. However, one School Board member, in particular, was practically a walking COVID hazard, and I’ll give you one guess who it is. Rhonda Thurman has been rather opposed to COVID protocols since the beginning; however, lately, she has been downright rebellious toward the protocols which seem to apply to everyone but her self righteous heiness. Rhonda has not worn a mask for the past several School Board meetings and has instead had a plexiglass cubicle placed around her desk approximately the size of a privacy folder used for testing in classrooms. I choose to wear a mask to do everything I can to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But I also wear a mask so that if I were to become infected, I would know that I had done everything I could to protect my friends, family, and co-workers. I would never be able to live with the guilt that I had infected any of these important people in my life, especially when there is the chance that the coronavirus could kill them, all because I was too selfish to wear a mask. Looks to me like Rhonda is prepared to handle that guilt, though.