POINT PLEASANT — The Mason County Board of Education discussed safety protocols and upcoming projects during its meeting on Tuesday evening. The board also voted on proceeding with a lawsuit in relation to the impact of the opioid epidemic on schools and their resources.
All board members were present during the meeting, which was streamed online.
In the superintendent’s report, Jack Cullen discussed the chemicals used in the sanitizing sprayers the school purchased to clean rooms and buses. Cullen, along with many board members, have heard complaints and concerns regarding the ingredients in the spray. Cullen said when looking at the chemical ingredients, there is nothing hazardous. The chemical label also did not have specific requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE), according to Cullen. Cullen said the spray does have an odor, but it does not seem dangerous.
Cullen said custodians asked to switch to another chemical. After examining the ingredients in the requested chemical, Cullen said there was a poisonous substance in it, though it had a better smell.
Board members said they have received complaints about sore throats, burning eyes, etc. The board questioned if the symptoms could be due to over exposure due to using the sprayer often and many times throughout the day. The board said they will look at providing more PPE to see if that helps to protect against the symptoms experienced.
The board unanimously approved to accept bids to replace the wastewater treatment plants at Ashton Elementary, Beale Elementary and Roosevelt Elementary. Cullen said there are grants available for wastewater plants, but he was advised that the school district alone would not likely qualify for the money. Cullen said if the school board partnered with the Public Service District (PSD) for the grants, they would be more likely to receive funding.
In the financial report, Treasurer Gary Hendricks said from July 1 to current, 55 percent of tax collections have been received. Hendricks said last year, for the same time period, 53 percent of tax collections were received.
Cullen discussed student enrollment with the board. Compared to last year, Mason County has had a decrease of 72 students. Cullen said throughout the state, student enrollment has decreased by 10,000 students.
The board unanimously voted in favor of proceeding with the opioid lawsuit, which was a topic at the last meeting in a report by attorneys. To join the lawsuit, the school district will not be charged.
In the last board of education meeting, attorneys James Humphreys and Wayne Hogan spoke to the board about the opioid crisis and lawsuits. The attorneys said many schools across the country are filing lawsuits against national pharmaceutical companies for the increased cost in special education.
Hogan said that on behalf of school systems he is “taking action because federal law mandates, as it should, that programs be put in place for special education and 504s.”
Humphreys and Hogan said that individualized education programs (IEPs) for students have increased due to the opioid crisis and pregnant women abusing drugs.
Also during the previous meeting in October, Dr. Kenny Bond, curriculum director, spoke to the board about the academic progress of students so far in the school year. Bond said the students are at midterm, with the nine week period ending Nov. 2. Currently, the attendance rate is 96.3 percent in the county.
Bond said that eight of 86 virtual students have 1 or more “Fs” on their midterm report. Bond said it’s difficult to compare numbers because the school has never had virtual or blended learning before. Bond also said there are some students who have several “Fs” and have done nothing, resulting in 0.0 percent on their reports.
Secondary students have high numbers of failing grades, but Bond said they are not “outrageous.”
The board discussed the grades presented and if they thought students would benefit by being in the classroom for more than two days.
Bond said he is confident that grades and statistics will improve when students return to more classroom learning.
Board members present for both meetings were Dale Shobe, Rhonda Tennant, Jared Billings, Meagan Bonecutter and Ashley Cossin.
The next regular business meeting for the Mason County Board of Education is scheduled for Nov. 10 at 6 p.m.
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Kayla (Hawthorne) Dunham is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, ext. 1992.