No mask requirement for Harlan County schools; Decision will be left up to students, parents

By Clark Bailey
Contributing Writer

Students of the Harlan County schools will not be required to wear masks while at school this year. In a unanimous vote, the Harlan County School Board voted to adopt the Safe Return to Schools Plan. While the plan does recommend that students that are not vaccinated wear masks, it will not be required. That decision will be left up to the individual students and their parents. The exception to this will be while students are traveling on the district’s school buses.

Speaking on behalf of a contingent of parents and community leaders present, Darla Carter-Hefflin, a parent of a student within the school system asked the board to consider the viewpoint of those in opposition to a possible mandatory mask mandate.

When asked for comment Hefflin responded, “I was honored to be asked to be a spokesperson for family members who came to ask the board to keep masks optional for our children. We were able to provide the members and superintendent with factual information supporting our views. We believe masks on our children harm them physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. We urge this board to maintain this optional status.”

In other actions, the board approved hires, transfers, payments, and equipment and property.

The board approved a payment of $220,867.12 to contractors, suppliers, and Codell construction in reference to the Wallins Elementary School Addition and Renovation project.

Approved a payment of $19,726.82 to Rising Sun Development and $4,414.00 to Bastin Painting for further work in the Wallins Elementary project.

The board unanimously approved a motion for an emergency recess due to technical difficulties with the live stream broadcast of the meeting.

Upon returning after recess the board unanimously approved the consent agenda which included:
A.) Approval of payment of claims totaling $803,481.71

B.) Monthly financial report for July 2021.

C.) Memorandum of understanding with Big Smiles of Kentucky.

D.) Memorandum of understanding with Clover Fork Clinic for Dental Program.

E.) Memorandum of understanding with Young Smiles Dental Program.

F.) Fiscal year 2022 Federal Funding Assurances.

G.) District Technology Staff assignments for 2021-2022 School Year.

H.) Awarded bid to SR Max for School Food Services safety shoes.

I.) Awarded School Food Service Uniform bid.

J.) Union College Memorandum of Agreement for ESU Candidate Placement.

K.) Approved Out of State Trip for HCHS Girls Soccer Team to Cumberland Gap, Tennessee.

L.) Early Entry Kindergarten Students.

M.) Approved 25 Extended Days of Employment for two pre-school special education teachers.

N.) Declared HCHS Weight Room Equipment as Surplus.

O.) Wallins School Signage and Retirement Placement Plaques.

P.) Purchased elements for Pee Wee Football Program.

Q.) Declared Items as Surplus for Black Mountain Elementary School.

R.) Surplus of Wallins Storage Building.

• Jody Gilliam gave a presentation on the Unaudited Financial Report for the 2020-2021 school year.

• The board went into an executive session to discuss matters and after returning no action was taken.

• The board approved a memorandum of agreement with Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College for Dual Credit classes. The board also approved a change in the Educational Cooperative Membership.

• A motion was passed to approve the American Rescue Plan: Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund.

• A motion was passed to reject school picture bids and open up to new advertisements.

• A motion was passed to approve a resolution considering litigation in reference to educational tax credits being proposed in House Bill 563.

• As mentioned the Safe Return to Schools and In-Person Instruction Continuity Plan was passed unanimously.

• A motion was passed to add an agenda item for payment to Landis Integrity Painting totaling $8,286.28 for work done at Cawood Elementary.

• A motion was passed to adjourn the monthly meeting unanimously.

• Refer to the Harlan County Board of Education’s website and the Harlan County Schools Facebook page for more detailed information.