Tussey Mountain School District Superintendent Dr. Jerry Shoemake told school board members Monday night that wearing protective masks appears to be helping to keep COVID-19 infection rates low.

During the school board’s monthly work session, held in the high school, Shoemake said that quarantine numbers continue to drop, a sign—at least for the present—that COVID cases have lessened.

“I’m very pleased with the numbers,” remarked the school district chief. “The cases are cycling down.”

As of Oct. 11, the elementary school listed seven persons quarantined and three positive cases discovered. The middle school is reporting five quarantined students and one positive case. At the high school level, four quarantined cases were reported with no positive cases detected.

“I thank the staff and students for wearing masks, they appear to be helping to keep the numbers down,” noted Shoemake.

Last month, a large delegation of parents appeared before the school board opposing the state’s mask-wearing requirement and encouraged Tussey officials to defy the mandate.

During the September session, school district solicitor Carl Beard told the parents and citizens that the board has its hands tied and faces serious consequences if it does not enforce the state mandate.

Although the number of COVID-19 cases continue to drop at Tussey, the district has no clue what the winter will bring in terms of COVID infections.

In an unrelated matter, the board listened to Eva Beth Sichko, president of the 85-member Tussey Mountain Education Association TMEA), who inquired about the district’s position on allowing educators quarantined and working from home the flexibility of not having to use up their sick leave days.

The TMEA president approached the board last month about the matter but had not received a reply from the school board and administration. In response to her inquiry Monday night, board president Harry Watkins said the association president will have a response at next Monday night’s board voting session.

Also Monday, there was a discussion regarding substitute teacher rates and the need to increase the rates.

“The district is struggling to find substitute teachers,” remarked Shoemake who suggested that the district consider hiking the rates as a means of enticing retired Tussey educators to fill the gap.

The board agreed to investigate a rate increase and may act on the matter next week.

Investing district monies in financial institutions that offer better interest rates was also aired Monday night with the district continuing to explore potential sources. Currently, the district invests monies in a Pennsylvania Government Investment Trust (PLGIT) account which returns are less than desirable.

When the board members gather next week, they will be asked to accept a low bidder to perform work on the high school baseball infield located next door to the school. The board is also looking at other improvements to the field.

The board also plans to recognize a substitute van driver for the Figard/Stevenson Busing firm.

With deer hunting season just around the corner, the board will consider allowing district support staffers to choose between the first or second day of deer season. This will require the approval of a Memorandum of Understanding between the school district and the Tussey Mountain Educational Support Professionals.

Two resignations will be accepted next week from district staffers: one for a pre-school classroom aide, the other for a library aide.

Also under personnel matters, the board will act on a transfer request for an employee to move from the position of special needs Aide (full-time) to part-time library aide.

Other motions to be considered next week include approval of 10 policies enhancements two workshop requests and three field trip requests.

Following Monday night’s workshop gathering, Watkins called for an executive session for personnel matters.

Ron can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

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