By Heather Graves
SEYMOUR – Despite federal requirements, the Seymour school district will not require masks on school buses when students return to class Sept. 1.
“What sense does it make when you are picking up the same kids every day dropping them off at school, they can throw their mask in their backpack, but yet they have to put it on on the bus?” Board Member Mike Cottrell said. “Some things just don’t make sense.”
The school board agreed to extend its optional mask policy for school buildings to school buses at its Tuesday, Aug. 24 meeting, a move that defies the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) order.
The order states “passengers and drivers must wear a mask on school buses, including on buses operated by public and private school systems.”
Superintendent Laurie Asher said the Wisconsin School Board Association legal perspective said Seymour school buses do fall under the CDC order.
“They are not making a legal opinion for school boards to follow it or not follow it,” she said. “They are just making everybody aware that the order does apply to all school buses, and that that is a discussion you should have with your school board and your insurance carrier because there could be situations down the line for school districts if they do not follow this order… They are not saying that is going to happen. They just wanted to make school boards aware that it is legally against that order if they do not mask kids.”
Asher said she brought the topic to the board because she wasn’t comfortable going against the order without board discussion.
“I think the decision has to be as a board, are you comfortable going against the CDC order and possible litigation?” she said. “Now, I am not saying the CDC is going to come and litigate against the Seymour Community School District, or that our insurance wouldn’t back us if we were litigated against. I think we all agree with all of you… it’s just because it’s an order. So, that is the only reason I wanted to bring this to the board. (Are you) comfortable knowing that if we don’t mask, there is a really, really slight chance, but there always is a chance that we are going against an order that is enforceable?”
Asher said Kobussen, the district’s contracted bus company, will take direction from the district.
“Kobussen is comfortable either way,” she said. “If we don’t make a formal action to require (masks on buses) then they will take our lead, and if we are not requiring masks in school, they will not require them on the bus.”
Asher said though positive COVID-19 cases in the county are currently trending upward, she didn’t recommend any changes to the district’s masking policy at this time “partly because we don’t have true data on our students because they aren’t in school yet, so our data is from June and summer school.”
“And the data we can get through Outagamie County Publice Health is based on all people living in our attendance area…,” she said. “So, we are really waiting to kind of see what our student data is after the first week or second week… So that is really why we made the decision not to change because our data still isn’t our students and staff.”
Asher said the administration will continue to monitor COVID-19 numbers and will recommend changes in the future if deemed necessary.
High school marquee sign
Trustees voted unanimously to award the contract for a new high school marquee to Appleton Sign at a cost of $41,099.
Business Manager Pete Kempen said the current sign is broken and is at the end of its lifespan.
“If you come from the west, from Black Creek on (State Highway) 54, you’ll see that the bottom line no longer functions,” Kempen said. “We had a lighting component inside that blew. When I first saw it, I thought it was vandalized because there is literally a hole in the sign. But, that was the damage inside coming out.”
Kempen said the current marquee was installed in 2005, “so with a life expectancy of 12-15 years, we got the life out of it.”
He said Appleton Sign will do a rod iron top to match what the district already has in place going into its athletic fields.
“We still keep the columns, they are just going to remove the inside, replace it with the sign and then rod iron over the top,” Kempen said.