Excelsior Schools Set to Implement New Mask Policy

The evening began with some pleasantries but quickly moved into some controversial topics. To start the meeting, Elisha Dale, Rockin’ Tiger Club assistant, was the recipient of the November 2021 Classified Employee Recognition Award.  Elisha was nominated by Dr. Hux, and in her nomination it was noted, “Elisha goes above and beyond to accommodate parents who are picking up their kids, she always has a pleasant disposition, and is always happy to help.” Jeff Kimsey, Safety & Security Director for the Excelsior Springs School District, was also recognized for having achieved his School Safety Specialist Certification.

There was one speaker during the visitor’s forum. April Falconer, who identified herself as a parent of an ESSD student and also a driver for Apple Bus #19, spent her allotted three minutes berating the school board. With her mask under her chin, she took the board to task for following the state and county guidelines which recommend students wear masks to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Falconer spent a majority of her time complaining about students being required to wear masks on her bus and asked that school board members come to the school bus lot to pick up used masks from buses. “If you guys would like to keep enforcing the masks, I ask that you volunteer to go to the bus lot on Friday evenings and go through the buses and pick up those masks because I’m tired of touching them, I’m disgusted, I don’t want to touch them,” she said. It should be noted that there is a federal mandate* which requires students to wear masks while, “boarding, disembarking, and for the duration of travel” on many forms of public transportation, including school buses. Additionally, Apple Bus, Falconer’s employer, is a contracted outside service and not technically under the jurisdiction of the school district. After her plea for freedom of choice, Falconer ended her speech by calling for the removal of several books from the school libraries.

After the visitor’s forum, the board touched on enrollment numbers which were still being impacted by the low enrollment at the Job Corps center. Dr. Hux stated that there are 400 students on a waiting list for Job Corp., and for unknown reasons they are processing only 8 of those students per day. On a positive note, Hux shared that the Early Childhood Center will be opening another Pre-K classroom once staffing is complete, with 31 students on a waiting list.

An update on district construction projects was given, which included:

  • Cornerstone: Complete. Working on punch list items.
  • Elkhorn: Complete. Working on punch list items. The canopy is now complete.
  • ECC: Complete. Working on punch list items.
  • Digital signs (district-wide): Signs are complete.
  • Baseball Field: Turf, replacement of outfield fence, retaining walls, bleachers, painting and update of dugouts and railing. Work continues on schedule. Expected completion in November. See attachments.
  • Softball: Designing a pre-fabricated grandstand to set on the existing concrete pad.
  • HS Aux Gym: Application has been made to FEMA in the amount of $4.75M. Waiting for approval.
  • HS Gym and PAC HVAC: Application has been made for ESSR funds in the amount of $2.4M. Waiting for approval.

It was announced that the district would be offering $600 stipends to each full-time certificated and classified staff member who complete activities related to district goals. To be eligible for payment staff must complete one activity from Board Goal 1: Student Performance AND one activity from Board Goal 2, 3, or 5. Each activity requires a minimum of two (2) hours. The total minimum effort required is two (2) activities and four (4) hours of effort. Activities must be completed before/after contracted time, such as mornings, evenings, or weekends.

A proposal was made and approved which will see the District, refunding $5.1M in series 2014 bonds and replacing them with series 2021 issued at a lower interest rate. The estimated interest savings is expected to be excess of $250,000 by the time the bonds mature in 2027. This move will also free up approximately 1 million dollars in bonding capacity which would allow the District to bring forth another no tax increase measure, in turn allowing them to move forward on additional construction projects (Presumably, Lewis Elementary).

The biggest news of the night was a 7-0 vote on implementation of a new “mask gating” policy. Under the new guidelines, masking policies will be set building by building and be determined on the percentage of positive COVID-19 cases in both staff and students. If cases in a building are greater than 4% masks will be required, under 4% masks will be optional. For instance, at the high school there are a total of 882 staff and students, if there are 36 or more active cases of COVID-19 the high school would be required to mask students and staff. To give some perspective there are only 4 cases in total district-wide. Beginning later this week, an evaluation of each building’s numbers will take place allowing them to determine whether or not masks will be required. The new mask requirements will take effect Monday, November 15th. It was stated that other mitigation strategies such as social distancing, hand cleaning, and ventilation will remain in place. (See the full Gating Policy draft included in the meeting agenda here.)

A screen shot of public documents provided by the school district shows the numbers of cases that would trigger mask requirements for each building.

Finally, the board approved a “Staff Bus Driver Incentive program.” The District’s plan is to incentivize staff to help fill the shortage of school bus drivers. The District sees the most likely impact coming from coaches driving their players to sporting events but they will also be able to fill in routes during times of extreme needs.

Dr. Hux said he worked with Activities Director, Joe Grime, and Apple Bus Director, Kim Green to come up with the plan that will create a stipend for any ESSD who attains their Class B CDL with an S, P and airbrake endorsement. An outline of the program includes:

  • ESSD employees will receive a $500 stipend.
  • The training time to get the license will be paid for by Apple Bus at $10.60/hr.
  • Employees who drive a route or an activity trip will receive hourly pay from Apple Bus as well as a $500 stipend per semester as an active driver.
  • Drivers will be employed by Apple Bus when driving.
  • Drivers will be subject to any and all rules or regulations as required by law including random drug screenings.
  • Drivers will be compensated for both their time as a coach and as a driver for activity trips.
  • Participants of the program may be required to fill in on bus routes during emergencies, shortages or otherwise immediate need situations.
  • Monthly safety meetings required to keep their CDL compliant – Web based, and can be sent the link
  • When helping with a route, we will put try our best to put them on the easiest one, with a monitor

For more details, you can watch the meeting in its entirety at the link above. The ESSD School Board meets the second Monday of each month at 6:30 PM at the Support Services Building in Room 8, 113 Line Street. Meetings are live-streamed to the Excelsior Citizen Facebook Page, Facebook Group and YouTube channel.

  • Note, the word law was changed in this article to mandate.

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