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Superintendent talks masking, curriculum

MCSD’s Varner hosts community outreach event

Sentinel photo by Brooke Crouse
Mifflin County School District superintendent Vance Varner held a community outreach event to answer questions about masking and more that he and others cannot address during regular school board meetings.

LEWISTOWN — Mifflin County School District Superintendent Vance Varner hosted a community outreach event Tuesday evening to answer masking questions, curriculum questions and more at City Hook and Ladder Company.

Varner, who took the reins as the district superintendent in September, wanted to allow the public to ask questions of the administration they would not have the time to ask during typical school board meetings.

The majority of parents of elementary, middle and high school children, involved community members and MCSD staff attended the meeting to express concerns regarding masking in schools.

Attendees spoke about the inconsistent communication regarding whether school children should wear masks per the state and local government versus the school board.

Varner replied that the school is doing the best it can with the available information. He said he understands the frustration over the lack of consistency in communication and rules about masking in schools.

“Here’s a news flash — we’re in school to teach,” Varner said.

Attendees also mentioned the inconsistency regarding masking requirements after school hours.

Varner said, “We’re not policing the mask after school hours.”

The state mandate covers all activities inside buildings, but there is no mandate outdoors. Also, some extracurricular activities, such as athletics, are governed separately (e.g., PIAA policies for sports). However, non-school activities in school buildings still fall under the mandate — for example, the Mifflin-Juniata Concert Assocation series holds its performances in the Mifflin County High School auditorium, where masks are required.

Varner shared in attendees’ frustration with this unpredictability.

“No matter what side you’re on, this has been confusing,” Varner said.

Those at the meeting then asked if MCSD plans to teach critical race theory.

Varner said that the curriculum at MCSD is reviewed and approved before students receive their education. So, critical race theory is not a part of the curriculum.

He said that this theory is a college course not for elementary to high school students, which he corroborated when speaking about his learning experiences in brushing up on critical race theory.

The audience quickly moved on to an issue with the quality of education when students are in quarantine and must use Zoom to attend class.

One parent said that their child did not receive proper access to Zoom classrooms, while another said that the quality of the online course lacked more than what they deemed acceptable.

Varner assured the people that the teachers are doing the best they can with available resources and that these issues with Zoom classrooms would be looked into further.

Varner encouraged everyone to ask the school if they need assistance or have questions about masking, curriculum, technology and more.

Varner and the audience also spoke about the school’s application process for open teaching positions and his effort in community outreach.

All are encouraged to contact Varner or MCSD about school-related issues to clear up any concerns.

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