COVID-19, Mask Policy And Public Records Requests Among Maumee School Board’s First 2022 Discussions

The Maumee City Board of Education includes (from left) seated, Janet Wolff, Diane Balcerzak and Stephanie Piechowiak; and back row, Mike Wiley and Matt Bush. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — COVID-19, the district’s mask policy, public comments and records requests were among the topics welcoming the Maumee City Board of Education during its January 10 organizational meeting.

Like many districts, Maumee has seen an uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases following the holiday break.

On January 3, the district had 70 new student cases and 14 staff cases reported. Many of those – including 58 students and nine staff members – hadn’t been in the building since school wrapped up on December 21 but tested positive in the meantime. As of January 10, the district had four staff absences because of COVID-19, with 23 total cases for the day reported.

While the 43537 ZIP code ranks in the top five in the county for current infections, it also has a 76 percent vaccination rate, Super-intendent Dr. Todd Cramer said. Earlier on January 10, he had a meeting with the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, which now has aligned all of its reporting and policies with the Ohio Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.

For Maumee City Schools, which has 2,290 students, keeping students and staff safe is a priority, as is keeping schools open for learning. That’s why the district set a threshold for when masks would be required in schools, Cramer said. On December 1, an e-mail was sent out to parents explaining that if more than 30 positive cases were reported for two consecutive weeks, masks would be required until the number of positive cases dropped below 20 for two consecutive weeks.

With the district exceeding 30 cases last week and on track to do so this week, Cramer asked the board if they wanted to alter that policy or keep it.

“It looks like this will be short-term,” board president Mike Wiley said of the current wave of COVID-19. “I don’t know if I feel confident adjusting the numbers below or above 30.”

After discussion, the board members agreed not to change that policy.

In other board discussion, member Janet Wolff wanted to know how much time it takes Cramer and his staff to respond to requests for written and electronic communication, which are subject to the Open Records Act. Masks, COVID-19, critical race theory and other controversial subjects are often the topics that prompt such public records requests – especially in the last 18 months. 

When receiving a public records request, the staff has to go through every e-mail or written communication regarding the subject and redact any names or personal information before providing it to the person making the request. It’s a process that could involve 3,000 to 5,000 pieces of paper, and someone needs to read every sheet, Cramer said.

“It’s done on nights and weekends,” he said. “I usually bring a box home with me on the weekend.”

Wolff asked Cramer to calculate how much time his staff has put into responding to public records requests in the past year.

“With all these requests, we may need to get additional help if it continues taking away from your job. How many more requests can our staff handle?” Wolff said.

In other business, as Wiley took the role of president of the board, he addressed the public about limitations he was setting on the public comments section of board meetings. 

To address the board, speakers must abide by three conditions: Be a current resident in the district, limit the discussion to under three minutes and refrain from speaking about subject matters for which the board has no control or policies – such as Conant Street traffic, the governor’s ruling on masks or national COVID-19 issues. Parents who have an issue with a particular teacher need to work through the chain of command, beginning with the teacher, principal and superintendent before approaching the board, Wiley said.

During the meeting, the board also:

• Witnessed the swearing into office of board members Matt Bush, Stephanie Piechowiak and Janet Wolff.

• Elected Piechowiak as vice president of the board.

• Listened to Cramer and Assistant Superintendent Steve Lee give a “State of the District” update.

• Established a $20,000 service fund from which the board’s costs for conferences, meetings and memberships would be paid.

• Assigned member Diane Balcerzak to serve as legislative liaison and Bush as student achievement liaison for the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA).

• Authorized payment of $8,008 to OSBA for annual membership and related subscriptions, as well as $250 to the OSBA Legal Assistance Fund Consultant Service.

• Agreed to a list of proposed meeting dates on the fourth Monday of each month, with working sessions at the same time on the second Monday of the month. The only change is the work session which will be held on Tuesday, September 12.

• Requested an advance on taxes by the Lucas County Auditor.

• Authorized the superintendent to accept resignations and retirements.

• Approved the purchase of 38 Ricoh copiers for $175,835.81. The current copiers have a lease that expires in March and can no longer be supported with service. After comparing the cost to lease or buy, the purchase made more sense, said treasurer Paul Brotzki.

• Accepted the retirement of Gateway clerk/ librarian Michele Davidson, effective June 30, and the resignation of high school classroom assistant Kate Skaff, effective January 3.

• Accepted gifts and donations including: $1,000 from Glass City Corvette Club and $25.00 from Douglas and Patricia Brainard to the Janice Brainard Scholarship Fund; and $1,355 from the MHS Alumni and Friends for the fifth-grade camp to support students in need.

• Approved the hiring of Natalie Garcia as food service secretary, Morgan McCormick as Wayne Trail playground monitor and Elizabeth Baden as academic intervention agent at Fort Miami, as well as certificated and operational substitutes. Bowling Green State University student Aaron Witt is a speech and language pathologist intern for the spring semester.

• Agreed to Cramer’s recommendation that certificated staff members be paid for unused personal days using CARES Act funds. The pay includes $150 for one personal day left unused at the end of the year; $325 for two and $500 for three. The same offer will be proposed for operational staff at the next board meeting. Cramer said the goal is to help ensure that classrooms are staffed. 

“The No. 1 reason you see some districts not be able to fully be in person is because of lack of staffing,” he said.

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