Montrose Area administrators fielded questions at December’s meeting about a recent safety drill as well as the addition of a boulder near the front entrance of the high school.
One audience member questioned the placement of the boulder and asked if there was something that prompted its placement there.
In 2016, Pennsylvania State Police provided a site evaluation of the school facilities and made recommendations to address potential safety vulnerabilities. One of the recommendations from the law enforcement evaluators included the installation of bollard systems at the front entrances of the schools. A bollard system is comprised of short posts that create a visual and physical boundary, as well as preventing a vehicle from getting too close to a building.
High School Principal Eric Powers said he was reluctant to install bollards at the high school for aesthetic reasons, and proposed the objective be achieved with landscaping.
“I love the boulder. I’m glad it’s here,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”
Powers explained that he wanted to maintain the school’s “welcoming nature.”
“We want the community here. That’s the primary reason I was opposed to the bollards,” he said.
The boulder will be paired with bollard benches – to promote the safety of the students.
Superintendent Chris McComb explained that bollard systems would be installed at Choconut Valley and Lathrop Street elementary schools. He said the bollards could be “dressed up” to look like pencils or crayons.
Board members noted that they are limited in the amount of information they can share about the district’s safety plan, but assured the parent that student safety is a top priority.
“There’s a lot of thought in the safety plan,” offered board member Paul Adams.
The board also reaffirmed its position that face masking would be optional if the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upholds a Commonwealth Court’s reversal of the Department of Health mandate. The state’s high court temporarily reinstated the masking mandate until it hears the case. The PA Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case today, Wednesday, Dec. 8.
In answer to a question about masking from a parent, McComb said, “I think the board has been fairly consistent that – when the mandate is lifted – they were going to revisit that decision and I am under the impression (the board) would make masks optional at that time.”
Board members reaffirmed their position that masking for students would be optional if the statewide school masking mandate is lifted.
Prior to the Commonwealth Court decision, Gov. Tom Wolf announced he would return school masking decisions to local boards in mid-January 2022.
The board also held its annual reorganization meeting on Monday, with school director Mary Homan at the helm as president.
Traditionally, school board meetings have alternated between the high school and Choconut Valley Elementary. However, there was a logistical concern about rotating meeting sites while offering the “hybrid” meeting option.
Board members expressed their desire to continue with the hybrid meeting option – allowing both in-person and remote attendance for school directors and members of the public. The board will continue its 2022 in-person meetings at the Jr-Sr High School and offer the remote participation.
The board recognized the service of longtime transportation contractors, Cliff and Dawn Taylor, and accepted – with regret – their intent to retire, effective June 30, 2022.
McComb said, “They have always been willing to pitch in and do what is needed.”
He said they are often one of the first ones to step up and offer help when needed by the district. “We owe them a debt of gratitude and I am certainly appreciative,” he said.