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East Grand Forks School Board still unsure on masks; members hope to decide in special meeting Tuesday, Aug. 17

A sample “safe return to in-person learning plan” document was included in Monday's meeting materials, outlining what an official decision would look like on paper as it pertains to mask usage, social distancing, hand-washing and vaccination for students, faculty and visitors.

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East Grand Forks Senior High School. File photo

The East Grand Forks School Board voted to hold a special meeting at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 17, in hopes it will come to a decision on whether masks will be required or recommended for students or teachers in the fall semester. The move to have a special meeting comes after not reaching a decision in Monday's regularly scheduled meeting.

A sample “safe return to in-person learning plan” document was included in Monday's meeting materials, outlining what an official decision would look like on paper as it pertains to mask usage, social distancing, hand-washing and vaccination for students, faculty and visitors.

“We’re still two weeks away (from returning to school), so as far as not requiring masks, or recommending masks, we want to make sure we do what’s best for our students, staff and family,” Superintendent Mike Kolness said during Monday's School Board meeting. “No definite answers are out there tonight, but know that we’re continuing to monitor, and we will be meeting on a very regular basis to come forth with a recommendation moving forward. In the end, there are no governor mandates. The governor does not have that power right now. Some people would like that, because it would make a decision easier.”

Kolness made one thing is certain: All students and faculty will have to wear masks on school buses this year.

“One thing we don’t have a choice on would be transportation,” Kolness said. “That is a federal mandate, that face coverings are required on public transportation, so we will work with those pieces.”

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Kolness also said he and School Board member Brandon Boespflug attended a Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA) webinar last week.

“They had two attorneys on there, and they were just giving us guidance on certain types of decisions,” Kolness said. “When we make certain decisions, there are going to be risks that come with that. Those are things that we are going to have to also consult with our legal counsel for the district.”

Boespflug offered to send the webinar footage to the other board members and recommended they watch it, and Kolness recommended the board schedule a meeting next week in hopes it will come to a decision by then.

In other business Monday, the board voted unanimously to increase substitute teacher pay from $135 to $145 per day. The compensation for substitute teachers had not been changed since 2016.

Mike Kolness
Mike Kolness

Jacob Holley joined the Grand Forks Herald as its business reporter in June 2021.

Holley's beat at the Grand Forks Herald is broad and includes a variety of topics, including small business, national trends and more.

Readers can reach Holley at jholley@gfherald.com.Follow him on Twitter @JakeHolleyMedia.
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