The Delaware City Schools Board of Education voted Monday to move the district to “masks strongly recommended” on March 10.

During the meeting, Superintendent Heidi Kegley delivered a pandemic update to the board. She said while the district saw a spike in cases after the holidays, cases have been declining recently. Kegley added the district has made several adjustments to COVID requirements, including allowing students and staff to return to school six days after testing positive as long as they wear a mask, are fever free, and as long as their symptoms are improving.

The district is no longer required to perform contract tracing, Kegley said, but she strongly encouraged families to reach out to school nurses after a positive test.

After hearing from Kegley, the board discussed transitioning from a mask requirement throughout the district to strongly encouraging masking throughout the district.

Board member Ted Backus said the board should be proud of its decisions so far, adding he believes the board’s choices have kept students and their families safe.

“I think the time is right now to begin to look at when is the appropriate time for us to lift that mandate,” Backus said.

Backus asked Kegley for her input, and she said the board should give students and families ample time to prepare for the transition.

“If we move towards masks strongly recommended, we (should) give at least a few weeks for everyone to make those adjustments,” Kegley said, adding she will “most likely” continue to wear her mask throughout the school day. “(Wearing a mask) is something everyone should feel comfortable doing if that is their choice.”

Kegley said classes or schools can still be shut down by the Delaware Public Health District if the case rates get too high, and “it will be critical for families to continue to work with school nurses if someone is showing symptoms to ensure the safety of all.”

Backus said the district could revisit the requirement if another variant like omicron begins to spread.

Board Vice President Jayna McDaniel-Browning and board member Matt Weller initially offered Feb. 22 as the end date for the mask requirement, but board member Melissa Harris suggested March 10, since it is just two weeks after the February date and marks the end of a quarter.

“I think March 10 would allow our teachers … more time to prepare,” Harris said. “I want to keep kids in school. I want prom to happen. I want graduation in-person to happen. I don’t want us to have to close a classroom, so I feel like the longer we give them, the more they will be prepared.”

Board President Matt Wiener said his goal continues to be keeping students in school, and he would prefer to go with the March 10 date to give more time for cases to decrease and for everyone to prepare.

“We’ve asked a lot of people over the last couple years and they’ve done it,” McDaniel-Browning added. “It would be nice to see some light at the end of the tunnel.”

McDaniel-Browning, Weller and student board member Katie Hejmanowski voted to add an action item to end the requirement on Feb. 22, but the motion did not carry.

Backus then moved to add an action item to end the requirement on March 10. The action item was added, and the board voted to end the mask requirement at the end of the third term. Backus, Harris, Hejmanowski, McDaniel-Browning, and Wiener voted “yes” on the motion to end the requirement at the end of the third term.

The board said masks will still be “strongly recommended.” Masks will still be required on buses due to a federal order until March 18, Kegley reported.

The board also voted to approved several staffing changes, including the retirements of Mary Rogers-Duffy, the district nurse coordinator; Julie Magnusson, an educational assistant at Schultz Elementary School; and Sheri Rice, an educational assistant at Woodward Elementary School. The board also approved the resignation of Dawna Tompkins, an intervention specialist at Smith Elementary School; Scott Wetzel, an intervention specialist at Hayes High School; and Blair Millet, a School-Aged-Child-Care (SACC) program assistant.

The board voted to approved several employments, including the hiring of Jaycie Munyon as an intervention specialist at Schultz; Rebekah Youngkin as an intervention specialist at Carlisle Elementary School; Jacquelyn Cox as an educational assistant at Hayes; Jimmie Green as a bus driver; Courtney Oliver as a cook/cashier at Dempsey Middle School; Brianna Rittenour as an educational assistant at Schultz; Elisabeth Smith as a cook/cashier at Carlisle; Katreena Stidam as an educational assistant at Schultz; and Jason Tannenbaum as a SACC program assistant.

The board also approved a two-year contract with Jacob LeGros, the principal at Smith.

Additionally, the board approved three changes orders for ongoing construction projects: a $867.42 increase for lighting changes at Carlisle; a $1,546 increase for additional ceiling panel replacement at Schultz; and a $7,067 decrease for unused materials.

The board will meet next at 6 p.m. March 7.

Orchestra students at Dempsey Middle School practice during class last month. students at Dempsey Middle School practice during class last month. Jennifer Ruhe | Delaware City Schools

By Glenn Battishill

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Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.