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MCSD board reach masking issue stalemate

Students warned against TikTok vandalism trend

LEWISTOWN — Members of the Mifflin County School District’s Board of Directors have reached a stalemate regarding the masking issue.

With some board members asking to go back to in-person meetings and others stating they don’t feel comfortable opening the school district up to potential liability issues, parts of the board’s Committee of the Whole meeting, held via Zoom, became heated on Thursday.

During last month’s Committee of the Whole meeting, board president Terry Styers stated that the meeting was held via Zoom because one or more members stated they would not wear a mask to any future meetings.

September’s meetings were held via Zoom to eliminate the issue of enforcing masks.

The board did not make quorum – meaning they did not have enough members present to hold a meeting per the Sunshine Law – during its September workshop meeting, or during the voting portion of the meeting.

If the board again cannot make quorum during its voting meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, it will be unable to approve dozens of items including staff hires and the resignation of one board member, Julie Maidens.

Superintendent Vance Varner explained that the board has a number of issues that need to be approved to carry on district business.

Board member John Knepp asked multiple times if the board could meet in person during its next meeting, while Styers held firm that he felt the board should continue operating via Zoom to avoid issues related to masking.

Members of the public stated that they were frustrated with the board’s decisions, with one resident calling the board a “clown show” and another accusing members of “hypocrisy.”

Another member of the public stated that she was frustrated with a lack of communication from board members who would not reply to her emails.

In other business, Chief Financial Officer Melinda Kenepp gave an update on the district’s preliminary 2021 budgetary projections.

When the budget was made in March 2020, Kenepp said the district was projecting a loss of $2.6 million for the 2021 school year due to the uncertainty of COVID-related issues.

“We have been very conservative on the revenue side, especially, we didn’t know how the pandemic was going to affect the local economy. We didn’t know what was going to happen at the state level.”

Kenepp said revenues ended up coming in stronger than projected and the district is now expecting to come in $7 million over budget in revenues.

Kenepp said the year-end transfer of the projected $4.1 million net income is $600,000 into unassigned fund balance, $2.5 million into assigned fund balance and $1 million into the capital reserve fund.

In other news, Varner reported that students have been responding to a “Tik Tok Challenge” by vandalizing the high school and junior high restrooms such as ripping dividers off the wall, breaking soap and paper towel dispensers and ripping sinks off walls.

“This past week, we’ve had one maintenance individual do nothing for his entire shift but work on vandalism in the restrooms.”

Varner said students participating in such acts will be charged with institutional vandalism to the fullest extent of the law.

“These actions are not acceptable. Our students are better than this.”

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