by Richard Uhlhorn
The Lake Chelan School District enjoyed a successful ‘back to school week’ culminating in a season opening football game, soccer game and volleyball jamboree.
At a board meeting on August 31, the first day of school, Superintendent Barry DePaoli told the board that the first day of school “felt a lot more like normal.”
Despite the successful return to school for students, teachers and staff, there are still some major issues to overcome.
State wide mandated vaccine requirements for all teachers and staff unless they receive either a medical or religious exemption is a serious issue because there are employees who are concerned about getting the vaccine. According to the vaccine requirement, any employee who doesn’t obtain fully vaccinated status by October 16, and/or obtains a medical or religious exemption, could be let go.
DePaoli stated during a telephone interview that the District cannot afford to lose one employee. “Just losing a bus driver would require rerouting kids,” said DePaoli. “I am working with staff and will meet with them individually or in groups to explain accommodations. We want to humanize the process.” He explained that part of the accommodation issue is how the District retains all staff.
The other issue facing the District, Manson, Entiat, Cashmere and Cascade is Sheriff Brian Burnett putting a hold on the School Resource Officer (SRO) program. “Brian is in touch with us on this issue.” The Sheriff’s Department will patrol the school areas but not enter into the popular SRO program because of the State Mandate for vaccinations for all State employees.
Burnett put out a press release stating that he feels it is unconstitutional for the Governor to place mandates on agencies and businesses. “It’s a frustration because he is playing politics with kids,” said DePaoli. “It is detrimental to our schools to not have a SRO on board.”
The SRO program is fully funded by both the Chelan and Manson School Districts and the City of Chelan at a cost of approximately $120,000 a year. “It’s a pretty large amount which is why we share the cost.”
The major benefits of the SRO program is the influence a SRO has on the students. “The SRO and kids build good relationships.” DePaoli remarked that Burnett was an SRO before becoming Sheriff.
The District added 41 new students in the high school, lost 27 to withdrawals which gave them a gain of 14. Running Start has 18 versus the 30 in that program last year which DePaoli is thankful for. Running Start students take state money with them. It was reported that the Chelan School of Innovation has 25 students enrolled.
The next school board meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 14.