County School Board Talks Opioid Settlement

Published 2:30 pm Wednesday, March 2, 2022

The Harlan County School Board met in regular session recently, discussing various topics including litigation concerning the opioid epidemic and the school’s position on face masks.

Superintendent Brent Roark first brought the board up to speed on settlement money resulting from a legal action regarding damages caused by the opiod epidemic.

“There is $500 million coming into Kentucky from opioid litigation,” Roark said. “None of this has been earmarked for schools. We’re incurring significant costs from outcomes resulting from the opioid epidemic. We run an extremely high special needs rate, and a lot of that is the result of opioid use by the parents. There’s no money coming into us from that.”

Roark explained many school districts have already signed on to a legal action seeking compensation from the opioid settlement.

Following a short discussion, the board voted to take part in the class action lawsuit.

The board also discussed the possibility of a class trip to Kings Island for the 7th and 8th grade students of Rosspoint Elementary.

“Barring some unforeseen tragedy, I don’t see us being in school,” Roark said. “School will be out, so there’s no issue. They’re doing a charter bus. We still need board approval.”

A board member explained all necessary preparation for the trip has been completed.

Roark recommended the board approve a trip utilizing a charter bus to Kings Island on June 6 – 9. A motion was made and approved by the board with no objection.

The panel also addressed the district’s Healthy at School COVID-19 plan.

Board Chairman Gary Farmer updated the panel on the plan.

“Basically, it’s masks,” Farmer said. “We had said sometime back we would address this in February.”

Farmer asked board member Hiram Fields for his input.

“This is our third year now,” Fields said. “We’ve masked, we’ve hid out in our homes…we’re still trying to beat this thing.

The fact is, we’re going to have to deal with it for a while.”

According to Fields, COVID-19 may always have a presence.

“At the Super Bowl, there were about 70,000 in attendance, and not one word mentioned about a mask, nor was it called a super spreading event,” Fields said. “We’ve got kids on virtual for wearing a mask, and that’s not what the program is for. We’ve got parents saying they will bring these kids back if we take these masks off. I think we need these kids back in the building.”

Fields stated the board should consider making masks optional.

“Anybody that feels susceptible or even scared, please wear your mask,” Fields said. “But I think we need to consider making them optional.”

Roark mentioned summer school had been conducted with masking being optional. He also explained regardless of any action taken by the board, masks will be required on school buses until at least March 18.

“No matter what you all do tonight, whether you take them (masks) off or leave them on or set an arbitrary date for them to be taken off, it doesn’t matter. March 18 is still the deadline on our busses,” Roark explained. “If you say take them off tomorrow, they still have to wear them on our busses until March 18…We don’t control what they do on our busses. That’s under federal transportation, the TSA. That’s through March 18 regardless of any action you take.”

Following some discussion, a motion was made and passed by the board designating masks as optional effective February 23.