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Park Rapids School Board meets new transportation supervisor

Meanwhile, the school bus mask mandate comes under fire during a public comment segment of their Oct. 18 meeting.

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Nicole Guida, left, comments at the Monday, Oct. 18, 2021 Park Rapids School Board meeting about the legality of the federal school bus mask mandate. Later in the meeting, Chris Norton, right, was introduced as the school district's new transportation supervisor. Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise
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The Park Rapids School Board was introduced Monday, Oct. 18 to the district’s new transportation supervisor, former Nevis Fire Chief Chris Norton.

Norton succeeds Cindy Leach, who retired in September after 24 years with the school district.

“The staff at the district office has been very welcoming,” said Norton, “showing me everything that Park Rapids has to offer. I spent the day over with Cindy today, and the dedication and hard work that the folks in the bus garage have to get the kids to school safely and efficiently is really evident.”

Bus mask mandate

Listed on the agenda under public comment, Nicole Guida made a three-minute presentation in opposition to the federal school bus masking mandate.

Guida argued that the mandate is causing unnecessary physiological and psychological damage. She cited a CDC study saying that masks are ineffective in reducing influenza transmission, and connected mask wearing with low blood oxygen levels that lead to physical and mental issues such as fatigue, cognitive impairment, headaches, heart and brain dysfunction and decreased immunity.

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Calling these “grave consequences” to inflict on healthy children, Guida quoted Minnesota Statutes defining mistreatment and abuse by those responsible for a child’s care, “such as a teacher, school administrator, other school employee or agent.” She emphasized a clause referring to “unreasonable interference with the child’s breathing.”

Guida further argued that an emergency use authorization (EUA) conflicts with U.S. Code, Title 21, Section 360, “which gives the option to accept or refuse administration of the product,” she said. She added that an EUA mandate cannot overrule existing state or federal laws, including the Constitution, and cannot be issued when other treatment options are available, such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.

“Bus drivers should be notified to not enforce healthy children to wear a mask on a school bus,” said Guida. “Children and adults both have the legal right to refuse mask wearing, based on state and federal law. It is up to us as people responsible for the care of children to provide a safe environment based on law.”

Finally, she quoted a state law that says a person who uses a mask to conceal their identity in public is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Guida presented the school board with a stack of annotated documents supporting her statement.

Quilting with people

Superintendent Lance Bagstad reported that at the moment, there were 19 students and two staff members out with COVID-19, and that school staff continue to increase their mitigation efforts.

Business manager Kent Fritze said the district’s audit was completed on Oct. 15 and went well.

Fritze said district staff have been applying for federal and state grants, and the district was awarded a $170,000 Emergency Connectivity Fund grant through the federal American Rescue Plan Act. He said the funds will be used to buy laptop computers and Chromebooks.

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School principals discussed the recent midterm parent-teacher conferences, the need for substitute teachers and their gratitude for each school having a “building sub.”

High School Principal Jeff Johnson voiced how nice it was to see parents visiting the school in person and interacting with teachers.

Referring to her ongoing efforts to cover teachers’ absences, Century Middle School Principal Shawn Andress said that if anyone asks her what she does for a hobby, she’ll say, “I quilt with people.”

Early childhood scholarships

Jill Dickinson, director of Community Education, reported that Pathway scholarships were awarded to 10 families to provide free early childhood programming for their 3-year-olds. She also gave a glowing report of a recent trip to the Ark Encounter in Kentucky with 46 senior citizens up to age 95.

Curriculum and instruction director Jill Stevenson reported that Park Rapids Area Virtual Academy currently has 26 students in grades 6-12 taking more than 60 classes.

Food service director J.T. Clark said recent supply problems have been getting better, with five items he’d had difficulty ordering now available and more items scheduled to come in November and after the New Year.

In consent items and general business, the school board:

  • Approved J.T. Clark’s contract as food supervisor for 2021-23.

  • Set the date for the election canvass meeting for 8 a.m. Friday, Nov. 5, following the special school bonding election on Nov. 2.

  • Approved the Education Minnesota - Park Rapids and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees seniority lists for 2021-22.

  • Reduced blind and visually impaired teacher Carrie Wittenberg from full-time to 0.7-time for the remainder of the school year.

  • Accepted the resignation of junior high softball coach Lindsay Iverson.

  • Approved the sale of Skull Pops as a prom fundraiser.

  • Approved the second reading of a policy about release time.

  • Acknowledged donations to the schools, including $836 from Citizens National Bank and school supplies from Walmart to the high school.

  • Approved payments presented for October, totaling $1,323,326.

The school board’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 1 at the Frank White Education Center.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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