Lakota officials update coronavirus opening report, begin search for new board member

During the Lakota school board's Monday evening, virtual meeting (pictured), district officials reported the opening of classes under the coronavirus went smoothly. Board members also started process to fill a vacant seat. (Photo By Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)
During the Lakota school board's Monday evening, virtual meeting (pictured), district officials reported the opening of classes under the coronavirus went smoothly. Board members also started process to fill a vacant seat. (Photo By Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)

The first two weeks of in-person Lakota classes saw students – especially in younger grades – adjust better to the coronavirus-imposed of wearing masks, Superintendent Matt Miller reported to board members.

And in response to state officials’ directives, Lakota will be introducing an online “dashboard” so school parents can track the number and school locations of students and staff members who have tested positive for coronarvirus, said Miller during Monday evening’s board work session, which was broadcast via Zoom.

“We’re waiting for final guidance from the (Ohio) governor,” before posting the dashboard for public use, he said, which he expects Wednesday.

ExploreCoronavirus: State to report K-12 cases each week, DeWine says

He said of the 13,011 students attending classes, one student had a positive test the first week and zero reports of positive tests the second week.

All positive tests are reported immediately to Butler County health officials, said Miller.

Citing student and school parent surveys done during the first two weeks, Miller said “masks have not been an issue, it’s more about spacing,” he said referring to the minimum six-foot social distancing ordered by state officials.

High school students are complaining more about wearing masks than younger students, he told the board.

Overall, the district – which was the first in the region during summer break to announce all students would be required to wear masks – opened the school year smoothly, he said.

“There was a great deal of anxiety built around this but once the kids came back they saw we can do this,” he said.

Board member Julie Shaffer said “the feedback has been very positive. Everyone’s fears – for the most part – have been allayed.”

School parent Darcy Brand called into the remote meeting and told the board “I’m disappointed in the communication of covid (cases) numbers.”

“And I would like to know what schools have covid cases. I’d like to see more transparency,” said Brand.

In other board action, members approved a timeline for interviewing and selecting an appointee to replace former member Todd Parnell, who resigned last week due to personal reasons.

ExploreLakota board to search for replacement after member unexpectedly resigns

Member Lynda O’Connor pushed for a longer time period of publicly soliciting applications, but the remaining three members did not back her suggestion.

Instead, there was a compromise extending the window for accepting applications until Sept. 10. The application is available now at Lakota’s website.

O’Connor said the new board member selection process need to be “fair and transparent.”

“We do need to remember … it’s been 30 years since this (board appointing a new member) last happened. Our voters will have a board member they did not select,” she said.

But Board President Brad Lovell, said the selection process being used is the same as employed by hundreds of school systems across Ohio as laid out by the Ohio School Boards Association.

The board also launched an online survey at its district website for school parents and residents to share what criteria they want in picking a new board member.

“I disagree that it looks like we are not being transparent and fair,” said Lovell.

The board will interview candidates on Sept. 12 and 13.

Ohio law requires a replacement must be appointed within 30 days of the resignation. The newly appointed member will serve until Dec. 31, 2021. If the appointed member desires to continue serving, he or she must run in the Nov. 2021 general election.

If there is a tie vote among the remaining four members, a Probate Court Judge will decide on whom among the applicants will fill the board seat.