RENSSELAER — Barring any pandemic outbreaks, Rensselaer Central’s schools are preparing to operate as normal when students return on Thursday, Aug. 12.
That means the elimination of a mask mandate and giving students a chance to mingle more than they were allowed this past school year.
In athletics, students will be allowed to congregate in the locker rooms instead of being asked to take showers when they get home after a game.
At Tuesday’s RCSC school board meeting, final preparations were made by superintendent Curtis Craig and board members so that schools could get back to the business of learning.
The school board:
• Approved the 2021-22 school re-opening plan that includes the eliminates the need for kids to wear masks for the time being. A revised provision on contact tracing was also addressed.
But as Craig warned, “That is today, and going through COVID, there’s always change. The health department still has the ability to tell us what to do. It’s the difference between recommendations and requirements and there’s not a lot of requirements right now.”
• Approved non-certified employees and student handbooks for the school year.
• Approved the 2021-22 student/adult breakfast and lunch prices, with the federal government funding free breakfast and lunch meals for students. Adults will be charged $2.50 should they eat at school cafeterias.
• Approved a pay increase of 2.5% to non-certified employees for the 2021-22 school year.
• Set the stage for school facilities projects through a 2021 multi-school bond issue.
• Approved the hiring of new teachers and accepted resignations ahead of the start of school in three weeks. Members also approved the Rensselaer FFA’s request for an overnight trip to Indianapolis in October and accepted two transfer requests.
New teachers will meet with RCSC officials and board members on Monday, Aug. 9, with the corporation’s entire staff to participate in a celebration breakfast and orientation meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 10 at 7 a.m. in the high school auditorium.
Teacher in-service day is Wednesday, Aug. 11, with the first day for students on Aug. 12.
Craig provided an update on iLEARN and ISTEP scores at a number of grades at RCSC. He concluded, “We’re optimistic with what we’re seeing in the elementary. We’ve got work to do in other schools.”
A leave of absence request from Special Education teacher Dan Yeager was the biggest topic of discussion near the end of the meeting.
Yeager asked that a position be left open for him within the corporation next year as he navigates a new opportunity in the city. A few of the board members felt Yeager should instead resign as teacher (the long-time teacher also coaches a handful of sports within the corporation but plans to not coach this year) and reapply next year — if he feels ready to return — since he appears to be more than qualified for his current teaching position.
Since Yeager isn’t asking for a sabbatical related to teaching, some members believed RCSC shouldn’t be obligated to hold a position for him.
Also, board members Charlie Parrish, Kevin Armold and Rick Odle were afraid to set a precedent for future requests.
Yeager’s request was denied by a 4-3 vote, with Parrish, Armold, Odle and Gary Braasch voting against. Board members Emily Lyons, Mark Jordan and Janice Deno were in favor of the request.