SUNBURY — Vaccinations, the opening of the new high school, the number of meetings, and a recall of the school board president were among the topics of discussion at the Big Walnut Local Schools Board of Education meeting on Jan. 20 in the District Administrative Office.
During her comment portion of the meeting, Superintendent Angie Hamberg said some of the recent vaccination clinics were held at the office on non-school days instead of at specific schools during school hours due to potential peer pressure.
“My concern is the use of school property being used for clinics due to potential liability,” said board member Alice Nicks. “The pharmaceutical companies are protected from liability … but what protects Big Walnut School District if something happens to a child? I am also concerned about any potential injury caused by this drug.”
Nicks said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Education issued a letter last year on opening school clinics.
“It really tells the schools how to be a marketing agent for the COVID shot,” Nicks said. “My first question is how much money did Big Walnut Local Schools get for housing these clinics? Take note that I am not an anti-vaxxer person. However, I am against our school district being a marketing manager for the CDC and the Department of Education, or the Ohio Department of Health or the Delaware County Department of Health by promoting this COVID-19 shot.”
She went on to say that “marketing the COVID-19 shot should not be the responsibility of the school district, especially since we have a Delaware County health department office two doors down from Kroger, and CVS has a clinic available for receiving the shot.”
The Delaware Public Health District branch office is at 137 state Route 3, Sunbury.
Nicks said that based on that letter, she was requesting the district “no longer provide clinical space on any school property for the administration of this drug COVID-19 to anyone, any age.”
Hamberg asked if that included the flu vaccines and other required vaccines, which is also given at the clinics. Nicks said COVID was the one she had the most concern about.
“Certainly, I am not looking to solicit vaccines,” Hamberg said. “We were asked to cooperate with the health department, like every other school did. I defer to the board to discuss it. We weren’t trying to persuade anyone. We had parents request it, a clinic for the kids. We put out the information. It certainly was not my intent, nor do I think we marketed anything.”
Treasurer Jeremy Buskirk said no funds were received. “We just provided the opportunity, and the parents wanted it,” he said.
“I think there’s a rumor out there that funding is tied to that, and that’s incorrect, you don’t have to provide a clinic, or require masks,” Hamberg said.
No further action was taken.
Earlier, Hamberg talked about the opening of the new Big Walnut High School.
“I want to say a huge thank you to everybody that has helped make the start of our semester in the new high school go so smoothly,” she said. “Thank you to our staff and students for such a great transition.”
Hamberg said residents may have noticed a police officer monitoring traffic at the light in the morning at the new high school instead of being in the intersection.
“We do have our new school resource officer that the board approved last week (Jan. 13),” Hamberg said. “We were able to hire that position instead of paying the special duty rate that we would have had to pay just for traffic duties. Now we have a half-time person who can help with traffic in the morning which we are required to provide, but then is also available to do some other work with our kids the rest of the day.”
During the board member comment portion of the meeting, President Doug Crowl said, “I mentioned several months ago that the community I saw at that time wasn’t the community I grew up in. I would prefer not bringing the items up. However, I have seen in social media where there are individuals who think that I should be recalled.
“The election was over Nov. 2,” he added. “Anybody that doesn’t like the outcome, grow up. I’ve had elections I didn’t like the outcome, and we need to be civil. We need to put away the hate. If somebody dislikes me, that’s fine. If somebody thinks I should be removed, go for it if you think you have a case for it. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who aren’t happy with the outcome of the election, but this is the board for at least the next two years …”
Six members of the public spoke at the nearly three-hour meeting. Among them was a man who said he was a former board member who urged parents to visit and participate in their child’s education. Another former board member said she supported the board’s membership in the Ohio School Board Association, saying it was invaluable for new members to learn about pressing issues.
Another statement, given on behalf of a New Albany resident, was directed in support of the reelected Crowl, and newly elected board members Angela Graziosi and Nicks because of their stands on COVID policy and Critical Race Theory. “We do not want remote learning, and we do not want masks on our students, teachers or bus drivers; … we do not want CRT in any way shape or form being taught in our schools … which has been repackaged as (Communist) diversity, equity, and inclusion … and replacing them with merit, excellence and opportunity. Four thousand voters grew tired of being ignored and belittled … in these meetings, so we need a change.”
The following students were recognized at the meeting:
• Nataleigh Mullins, Hylen Souders Elementary School Art Student of the Month
• Sophia Oakes, Souders Student of the Month
• Caroline Lust, Big Walnut Middle School Art Student of the Month
• Cabella McClary, Middle School Student of the Month
Annie Clark and Kate Thoma told the board they are doing everything they can to keep the doors open at the buildings in light of staffing issues. Hamberg said she and other administrators have had to teach some classes to fill the gaps.
A member of the public thanked the district for its efforts to keep things open and normal, saying, “The kids have no idea how hard this is.”
Facilities Director Doug Swartz said staffing issues are also a problem for custodians and on construction projects, requiring double shifts. Among the projects are replacing the flooring at the old high school and removing half of the lockers. When completed, the old high school will become the middle school and the intermediate school will move to the middle school.
Swartz then gave dates when he expects some of the athletic fields to be completed at the new BWHS, but they may not be used until next spring. Hamberg said graduation will be at the new stadium, though.
In other news, Crowl had previously suggested 31 school board meetings for 2022 and polled members for the number of meetings they wanted. Board members Sherri Dorsch and Steve Fujii preferred having fewer meetings, even if it meant they would be longer, agreeing to the 17 currently scheduled. Board member Angela Graziosi said it would be good to have optional meetings scheduled but removed if they weren’t necessary. Nicks was fine with more than one meeting a month, saying, “I want to do what is best for the children.”
“I take 17 meetings as an insult. It’s not enough,” Crowl said, noting that the board had averaged more than two meetings per month over the past decade. He felt more meetings were needed for discussion of board policies.
“Honestly, I’m offended that you’re offended,” Hamberg said to Crowl, saying the number of meetings was arrived at as a compromise in consultation with the board at the end 0f 2021. “That was not meant to be disrespectful, that was us reacting to the only feedback that we received. I said we’ll put it on the agenda so you guys can discuss it, and you’re always welcome to make changes.”
Hamberg said if a special meeting was needed, it could be scheduled a month or a couple weeks ahead. No further action was taken.
The board took action on business items during the last 20 minutes of the meeting. Assistant Superintendent Mark Cooper said the calendars for the 2022-2023 and 2023-24 school years were coordinated with other entities such as the Delaware Area Career Center and the Hartford Fair, where many students participate.
The calendars were approved by a 6-0 vote, with Student Board Representative Savannah Smith being the sixth board member. “Students are really loving the new space,” Smith said of the new high school.