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Directors vote for parental mask choice

District to no longer require application for student face-covering exception

MIFFLINTOWN — Parents of Juniata County School District students will no longer be required to submit 504 exception forms requesting that their children be exempt from wearing a face mask.

The school board on Thursday voted to accept the state’s mask mandate exactly as written by the Department of Health, while allowing parents to provide a written note that their child will not be wearing a mask to school. There will no longer be a 504-type process for applying for an exception.

The vote was preceded by an emotionally-charged public comment period that lasted nearly two hours, in which about 20 people spoke. The meeting was held in the auditorium at Juniata High School to accommodate the large turnout. It was also livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.

Each speaker urged the board to give parents and students the right to choose whether to wear a mask at school.

“Frankly, you’re either on our side, or you’re in our way,” said one parent.

Many called the state’s mask mandate unlawful and unconstitutional. Several called for new leadership in the district, specifically pointing fingers at Superintendent Gary Dawson and Solicitor Scott Etter for their enforcement of the mandate.

“If you stand up for us … we’ll stand with you, whatever may come,” another parent stated.

The auditorium erupted with passionate applause after each speaker, one of which was a student from East Juniata High School.

In a similar vote, the board unanimously decided to remove disciplinary issues from a student’s record if the issue is related to mask-wearing.

The board also approved:

¯Meeting minutes from the Aug. 19 voting meeting and Sept. 8 workshop.

¯Financial reports and bills to pay.

¯Amy Rhodes and Gary Speece as bus drivers.

¯Juniata County School District Policy 236.1, Threat Assessment, and revised Juniata County School District Policies 218.1, Weapons; 218.2, Terroristic Threats; 247, Hazing; and 248.1, Bullying/Cyberbullying.

¯Agreements with Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. for provision of SAP and ESAP Mental Health Liaison Service.

¯Field trips, including: JHS/EJHS FFA, career development contests, Sept. 23, Huntingdon; EJES/JES Grade 4 students, Ag Field Day, Sept. 30, Reinford Farm, Mifflintown; JHS FFA, Safety Station, Ag Field Day, Sept. 30, Reinford Farm, Mifflintown; JHS Advanced Biology Students, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Stream Study, Oct. 4, Newport, October 4, 2021; JHS FFA, Fall Leadership Conference, Oct. 5, Altoona; JHS Senior Class, Washington, D.C., and Toby’s Dinner Theater, Nov. 12, Columbia, MD; JHS FFA, Mid-Winter FFA Convention, Jan. 10, Harrisburg; JHS FFA, ACES Conference, Feb. 5 to 6, Harrisburg.

¯Revised 2021-2022 calendar.

¯Retirements of East Juniata High School/Elementary School certified school nurse Penny Ritzman, effective Aug. 18; East Juniata Elementary School teacher Beth E. Harris, effective Oct. 26; East Juniata Elementary School LPN Tamra B. Page, effective Dec. 31.

¯Resignation of Juniata High School secondary school counselor Lisa A. Kile, effective at a date to be determined.

¯Termination of employment of Tuscarora Junior High School paraprofessional Kimberly A. Dressler, effective Aug. 30.

¯Employment of Monica L. Haines as a sixth grade teacher at East Juniata Elementary School, effective at a date to be determined. Haines replaces Ann Shambaugh, who has transferred to a Juniata Elementary School teaching position.

¯Employment of Kimberly N. Stuck as a certified school nurse, effective Nov. 1. Stuck replaces Penny Ritzman.

¯Employment of Deborah Nace as a long-term substitute math intervention teacher at East Juniata Elementary School, effective at a date to be determined. Nace will fill the position vacated upon the transfer of Shambaugh prior to filling the long-term substitute position being created by the retirement of Harris.

¯Employment of Bobbi J. Baer as PIMS/child accounting coordinator, at an annual salary of $40,000, effective Sept. 1, 2021.

¯Adjustment of East Juniata Elementary School custodian Preston G. Fosselman’s hourly rate to $14.68, effective July 1.

¯Issuance of permanent professional employee contracts to the following employees after three years as temporary professional employees; Rebecca J. Kirby, Mandy L. Ritzman, Stacie L. Kint, Maisie L. Aumiller, Arleigh E. Nace and Megan A. Carraher.

¯Unpaid leave for three employees.

¯Extension of an opportunity to individuals who were employed by the district at the time of implementation of the current sick bank policy, a one-time opportunity to donate three days to the sick bank for the current year, and three days the following year. All other sick bank procedures and guidelines remain intact, and the offer expires at the close of business Oct. 29.

¯Co-op agreement with Juniata Christian School for track and field at East Juniata High School.

¯First reading of revised Juniata County School District Policies 006, Meetings, and 903, Public Participation in Board Meetings.

¯Memorandum of understanding with the Pennsylvania State Police, Lewistown.

¯Resignation of Amy L. Wagner as Juniata County School District Board of Directors member representing Region 4, Walker Township, effective Sept. 5.

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