District accepts alternate quarantine policy

On Thursday, Oct. 14, the Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education met at the Sabetha board office their second special meeting in one week.

During the meeting, the board members revisited the District Plan for Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of services.

Leslie Scoby started off the meeting by sharing information from the Marshall County Commission special meeting that morning. She, along with fellow board members, Jim Scoby and Stan Keim, attended the meeting in which the commissioners reviewed what they could do about Axtell quarantine procedures. L. Scoby said the commissioners came the to conclusion that nothing would change.

L. Scoby spoke to Nemaha County Attorney Brad Lippert, who had spoken to Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) relating to the issue of quarantine. 

According to L. Scoby, per her conversation with B. Lippert, KDHE advised him that decisions regarding quarantines have been “decentralized and are being handled at the local level – KDHE is not getting involved.”

According to L. Scoby, B. Lippert also said county commissioners can review, amend or revoke any order issued by a local health officer. L. Scoby said the school board has authority to include Axtell in USD 113’s current COVID protocols, even though they are located in Marshall County.

Superintendent Todd Evans said there is an increased risk for liability if the school board chooses to deviate from a policy already in place. He spoke to an attorney with the Kansas Association of School Boards and they said anytime you deviate from a recommended policy established by health officials, you create a presumption of negligence.

Evans said their policy would change if the board enforces their own policy for all the USD 113 schools. He said the schools would have to report close contact cases with the county and also communicate to the families that they are under the USD 113 guidelines for school purposes.

Present were two nurses, Sabetha nurse Cari Smith and Axtell nurse Tammy Porting. Smith expressed concerns about Porting providing information to families that may become conflicted with information from a Marshall county health official. Porting also shared her concerns about not following guidelines set by the Marshall County health department, and said that they won’t have protection by Marshall County because they’re deviating from established health policies. Porting also was concerned about the possibility of creating confusion between Marshall County and USD 113’s policies.

Reznicek shared his concern about the possibility of being put at greater risk and potential negligence could occur. He said the Marshall County Health Department Quarantine Protocol is already a workable option that’s been successful in Marshall County and supported by the Axtell community.

Shaughnessy expressed her support of the Test-to-Learn, Test-to-Play option and wanted to do what the Axtell patrons wanted. J. Scoby said he talked to some Axtell residents at the Marshall County Commission meeting, and he said they were in “total support” of this new plan. Shaughnessy countered that they were in support because they thought it was their “last and only option.” L. Scoby said she felt the opposite, that one Axtell person she talked to said they didn’t feel represented quite right and they said if they couldn’t do anything else, then their last resort is Test-to-Learn, Test-to-Play.

L. Scoby said she has talked to many parents, some from Sabetha who aren’t in favor of Test-to-Learn, Test-to-Play. She likes an idea that unifies the school district under one. Shaughnessy countered that this new plan will not “unify the district and they are doing what Sabetha wants, not recognizing what Axtell wants.” She said it is causing a “great division.”

Reznicek asked Evans if they have insurance coverage if they accept the new policy. Evans said they do not have coverage.

The board voted to approve the District Plan for Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of services. The motion was approved 5-2, with L. Scoby, J. Scoby, K. Lippert, Keim and Saylor in favor, and Shaughnessy and Reznicek opposed.

To watch the Oct. 14 special meeting, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpPITaPSGqk.

Erin Herrmann99 Posts

Erin Herrmann is a reporter at The Sabetha Herald. She specializes in school board reporting, features and advertising design.

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