PIERCETON — A resolution for the school corporation to pay its regular expenses in light of COVID-19 was passed by the Whitko School Board of Trustees, Monday, March 16.
The resolution is a response to concerns that “school board meetings may be prohibited or limited in such a fashion that would inhibit normal operations,” said Superintendent Dr. Brandon Penrod.
All Whitko schools are closed until after April 10 in an attempt to slow the spread of virus.
The resolution would allow the school corporation to pay its day-to-day, operating expenses and staff during the closure, potentially until the end of the current academic year, Penrod said.
Board member Bill Patrick expressed concern with the language of the resolution, saying that it may allow possible non-essential expenditures.
“It’s limited to what is business as usual for the school corporation,” Penrod said. Any other expenditures will need to be approved by the school board, according to Penrod.
The measure is similar to what the board passes each year before the winter break in December.
The resolution will be in effect until at least the next regular board meeting scheduled for Monday, April 20. The board may abolish the resolution with a majority vote at any future school board meeting until the first board meeting after the end of the current academic year.
The resolution will be in effect if the board is unable to hold a meeting in April. Penrod cited the CDC’s recommendation to limit gatherings to no more than 10 people as a reason for the possible inability to hold a meeting.
Not including the school board and media, 11 people attended the March 16 meeting.
The option for the board to let the resolution continue acts as a contingency plan should the board be unable to hold a meeting due to any future restrictions regarding COVID-19.
The board plans to hold a meeting in April unless they are told not to, according to Board President Carrie Hoffman. The school board will follow any state or federal updates related to the assembly of school board meetings.
“I would have never thought we’d be here,” said Hoffman. “This is all new territory,” she said.
Penrod and Hoffman claimed other school boards are passing similar resolutions.
To end the meeting, Hoffman read a prepared statement before the board.
“COVID-19 was a term most of us hadn’t heard of just two weeks ago. Nor would we ever imagine the impact it would have on our everyday lives and certainly never imagined the school would be closing for weeks on end,” said Hoffman.
Hoffman took a moment to “recognize our Whitko staff during this time.”
“This happened quickly and everyone stepped up with their best ways to support our students from food deliveries to wife hotspots to how to adjust our students to distance learning,” she said.
When Hoffman asked Penrod which group he would like to publicly thank, “he said everyone.” “Every department is jumping in even if it’s not their typical job,” she said.
“We know that there will be bumps and adjustments along the way,” she said, “but we are a community and we will do whatever it takes to help our students through this time.”
The school board also provided a document outline for the school corporation’s planned response to providing for students during the COVID-19 closure.
The corporation will provide free meals for any Whitko student. The meals will be delivered to any student who is regularly picked up or dropped off by buses, including students who are not. Families living outside the district will need to make special arrangements to pick up their meals.
The cutoff for online meal reservations is noon on March 17. Parents may register their student(s) at whitko.org/freemeals. Any required meal assistance after the noon deadline on March 17 will have to be arranged through the Whitko Transportation Department. The transportation department may be reached at (260) 723-4619.
The corporation will also provide free wifi for the period of distance learning during the closure. According to the document, wifi will be operational by Thursday, March 19. All Whitko school building will have wifi available for access from the parking lot. Wifi Bus Hot Spots are being set up as well. The locations of the buses will be provided via a map once the service is live. For more information, visit whitko.org/distanceinfo.