Greenfield R-IV Board Adopts Re-Entry Plan For 2020-21 School Year

by James McNary, Articles Editor
The Greenfield R-IV school board met Aug. 3 to approve a re-entry plan for the next school year. (Photo by James McNary) The Greenfield R-IV school board met Aug. 3 to approve a re-entry plan for the next school year. (Photo by James McNary)

The Greenfield R-IV School District voted to adopt a re-entry plan with provisions regarding the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak last Monday evening, Aug. 3. The meeting was held in the high school gymnasium to accommodate the number of parents and other concerned individuals in attendance.

As is customary for the board, there was a period of public comment held at the beginning of the meeting, during which a number of individuals offered their opinions on the issue, both for and against the resumption of in-person classes.

“We’re living in different times, and we’re kind of a science experiment,” Board President Renee Meents told the crowd that evening. “We know that some of you are going to walk away mad, maybe all of you will.”

The approved re-entry plan has four levels, color-coded as green, yellow, orange, and red, with green having the least restrictions and red being a shutdown of in-person classes, similar to what happened this past spring, as described by Supt. Chris Kell prior to the board’s vote.

At the green level, masks are mandatory for staff when maintaining a distance of 6ft from other individuals isn’t possible. Masks are being provided by the district to teachers and any students requesting them.

At the yellow level, masks will be recommended for students in grades K-6 and while in public spaces for students in grades 7-12. Additional measures such as temperature checks will also be in place at that level.

The orange level requires masks for students grades 7-12 at all time social distancing cannot be done, while still being recommended for students in grades K-6. Students would be split into two groups and would attend classes either Tuesday/Thursday or Wednesday/Friday, with Mondays serving as a day to deep-clean district facilities.

A detailed version of the plan is posted on the Greenfield R-IV district website.

Following lengthy discussion of the proposed plan, board members David Tanksley and Kim Kinder moved to approve the plan as presented.

Board member Darrin Morrison offered an amendment to the motion, to make masks required at all times unless the individual can provide a doctor’s note stating that they cannot wear a mask. After lengthy debate, and at times contentious comments from the audience, the proposed amendment to make masks a requirement was voted down, with only Morrison and Tanksley voting in favor.

Board Secretary Melinda Jones then offered an amendment that would relax the masking requirements to recommended for all students until the orange level was reached. Following further debate, this proposed amendment was also voted down, with only Jones and Kinder voting in favor.

The board then proceeded to vote on the original motion to approve the re-entry plan as presented, approving the plan in a 4-3 vote with Jones, Kinder and Morrison in opposition.

“Dr. Kell presented us with a great re-entry plan, but we all knew the main issue was going to be whether masks were required or not,” said Jones, after the meeting. “With a sea of information floating around about masks, it’s easy for everyone to disagree on them. Now that a decision has been made we can all move forward.”

Morrison said that he hopes that no students, staff or other members of the community become seriously ill due to the decision of the board to adopt a plan not requiring masks at all levels.

“I learned [that night] that no one of us is as reckless or dangerous as all of us together,” said Morrison. “To get an elected school board to endanger the lives of children and staff, just to satisfy a group of poorly informed parents who still count on us to get it right even when they disagree with us, well, that takes a concerted effort by a determined group. No one person could have been that ill informed and convinced well-meaning adults to vote the way the Greenfield school board voted.”

Echoing her earlier sentiment that not everybody was going to be pleased, Meents said that the upcoming school year will require everyone to work together.

“The Greenfield R-IV [school] board meeting on Monday was both positive and productive. The input that we received from our patrons was an important part of the plan development and decision-making process,” said Meents. “Dr. Kell and his staff spent hours developing our re-entry plan that will allow us to provide the best education setting that is possible for our students while also prioritizing the health of our school community and greater community at large. The 2020-21 school year will be exceptionally challenging. Its success will be dependent on the school and community working together to make the best of a difficult situation.”

For his part, Kell said that there is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty about the upcoming school year, but he hopes that having a plan in place will help to contain some of those concerns.

“There is a lot of anxiety surrounding the reopening of school and I hope this plan will ease the mind of many in our community. It is extremely important that our students return to the classroom and this plan allows for school to begin with in person learning and puts into place many safeguards to ensure the health and well being of our students and faculty,” said Kell. “There is a lot of uncertainty with how the upcoming school year could go, but what I do know is our district is made up of a great group of educators and they have a great community behind them. We will get through this moment in history and be better for what we have experienced.”