EMMAUS, Pa. — The East Penn School District administration recommended changes to the health and safety plan regarding masking, contact tracing and quarantining Monday night.
Superintendent Kristen Campbell said masks and face coverings could become optional pending council approval on March 1. Additionally, the district will eliminate contact tracing and quarantine of those exposed to COVID-19 effective the same date.
Campbell said the changes are warranted due to declining COVID cases and hospitalizations, as well as positivity and transmission rates in Lehigh County.
Campbell said, “We had a spike in our COVID cases in December and January,” but we saw “a significant drop in cases in February.” She added: “It is likely that we will emerge from a high level of community spread at some point over the next few weeks.”
She was confident that a “change to optional masking and elimination of contact tracing in schools” was now applicable.
Masking will remain mandatory on buses until March 18, per a federal mandate ordered by President Joe Biden and the Transportation Security Administration. Masking will still be required when students enter the health room, according to the district. Social distancing would still occur “whenever possible”. The plan presented Monday night would not impact EPSD athletics.
The meeting also featured a robust and vocal public presence. Some openly question why policy change is waiting.
“There is a logistical consideration here in terms of people’s ability to prepare,” President Joshua Levinson said. “…There is a strong argument to be made that there is some time between when the decision is made and when it is implemented.”
A motion by director Michael Felegy to expedite the mask-optional date to Feb. 15 did not receive a second.
The administration has requested a Feb. 28 board vote on the matter. If approved, implementation would begin March 1.
In other cases, administrators have approved a general release and settlement agreement regarding an alleged discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed by plaintiffs Maureen and Christopher Brophy, alleged that their children – a son and a daughter – were discriminated against “on numerous occasions” during the 2019-2020 school year “because of their race, religion and disability,” according to the agreement.
Additionally, they were “retaliated against” when they objected to the alleged discrimination, according to the agreement.
The school district, along with Campbell and other EPSD employees in their official and individual capacities, were named as defendants. EPSD has denied all allegations.
The settlement approved Monday evening results in EPSD paying $45,000 to the Brophy family through their insurance company.
In other business, the district presented an overview of budget expenditures for the 2022-23 budget. EPSD lists three budget priorities: regular education enrolments, special education enrolments, and support services.
Finally, the trustees approved the retirement of Jacqueline Vogel as Principal of Shoemaker Elementary. The retirement is effective July 18.