BOYERTOWN, Pa. – The public comments sections of Tuesday night's meeting of the Boyertown Area School District Board of Directors attracted much attention as parents weighed in on two distinct topics — mask-wearing and racism.
Many of the speakers in the first section of comments belonged to Unmask Our Children, Boyertown, which is a coalition of parents, guardians, and other concerned citizens who have rallied support to petition against required masks in schools.
Parents continued to express their issues with mask-wearing in school, even though the mask mandate issued by Gov. Tom Wolf will expire, in any case, on June 28 for the entire state.
Christine Winsor, a mother of two children in the district, said, "We're asking for a choice, not force. Put the wearing of masks and vaccinations up to a vote to make them optional."
Winsor's husband, David, told the board that a study found many children suffer from headaches, dizziness and shortness of breath from mask-wearing. He backed his wife, saying, "End the mask mandates and allow the parents to make the choice."
Parent Jeff Schwartz told the board, "I never thought I'd have to fight for the right of my child to breathe."
His wife, Maria, told the board that teachers constantly "bullied" their son, as she described, to pull his mask above his nose.
Nicole Allen said a friend of her son told her recently, "Hooray, summer's here. My nightmare is over," referring to no longer having to wear a mask while not in school.
"Your voice has been heard, loud and clear," said Superintendent Marybeth Torchia, speaking about the mask order in the 2020-21 Health and Safety Plan revision.
She reported mask-wearing will be optional as of June 28, following the direction of the governor.
In July, Torchia said, the district administration will begin working on the 2021-22 Health and Safety Plan, in which masks will be optional. Also, for in-school summer school sessions, the distance between students has been reduced to 3 feet.
'No Place to Hate'
During the second public comments section, several residents addressed the school board about what they called racist comments, since deleted, allegedly posted by school board candidate Kirstin Lord on her Facebook page one year ago.
The residents castigated the school board for not speaking out against Lord. Following their comments, board Vice President Melody McWherter said, "I denounce racism" and member Lisa Hogan called on the board to do the same.
Board member Brandon Foose declared, "It's a good time to recommit to 'No Place to Hate,'" a slogan adopted by Boyertown after racial incidents earlier in the century.
Jill Dennin, board member, suggested the board bring in a representative from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association to talk about the equity policy adopted by the association this year.
The directors approved the following installment plan for payment of real estate taxes levied for the 2021-22 school year, making the installment payments due on July 31, Aug. 31, Sept. 30 and Oct. 31 of this year.
Taxes paid in full by Aug. 31 will receive a 2% discount on the face amount of the taxes. Taxes not paid in full by Oct. 31 will incur a 10% late fee. Taxes deemed delinquent as of Dec. 31 will incur additional fees as allowed by law.
The student accident insurance coverage was approved for the upcoming school year, with no increase in premium cost. Bollinger Specialty Group, Whippany, New Jersey, is to be renewed as broker for Zurich American Insurance Company. The insurance benefits are to remain in effect for the 2020-21 school year. The coverages are:
- Expanded sports medical benefit including football: Primary excess less than $200 to $5 million medical maximum with a 10-year benefit period and $0 deductible.
- Senior high football coverage only: Athletic disability $550,000 maximum benefit.
- Voluntary student accident insurance: Primary excess over $100 to $500,000 medical maximum
The district-paid premium is $11,043, which is no increase over the prior year. The parent paid premiums are $40 for schooltime only and $144 for 24-hour coverage.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education will distribute funds to the district during the 2021-22 school year for property tax relief. The district will receive $1,730,007.49 with payments in August and October of this year. There are 12,195 approved Homesteads and 134 approved Farmsteads.
The Homestead and Farmstead Assessment Exclusion for 2021-22 is $4,834.00, which equates to tax relief on eligible properties of $140.41.
The potential capital projects for 2021-22 were reviewed by administration and determined that the total estimated costs for the now-recommended projects are $735,490, which was approved by the board.