Philomath School Board
Joe Dealy, far left, and Erin Gudge, far right, take the oath of office during the School Board’s July 1 meeting. Also pictured, from left, is board member Karen Skinkis, superintendent Susan Halliday and board member Anton Grube. Rick Wells was not able to make it physically to the meeting but was sworn in via phone. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath students in all grades will return to full-time, in-person learning when classes begin Sept. 7-8. The Oregon Department of Education on June 25 released its “resiliency framework” to provide schools with guidance for the 2021-22 academic year — a document that represents the desire to see pre-COVID conditions on campuses around the state.

COMING SOON: Greg Gerding, Jim Kildea and Shelley Niemann answer questions about their years of service on the School Board.

“Our plan right now is to have in-person classes resume on a five-day-per-week schedule, so we will be Monday through Friday,” Superintendent of Schools Susan Halliday told the School Board during its July 1 meeting. “… The things we don’t know at this point have to do with the health and safety protocols and we’ll know more about that as we receive further guidance later in July.”

The ODE’s guidance states that “districts will make decisions with their boards to determine local implementation of COVID-19 mitigation measures, as laid out in this document.”

Halliday said the district plans to work closely with the Benton County Health Department on any possible safety measures to put in place.

“It could be that they will tell us based on county vaccination numbers and COVID cases that we can make our own decisions,” Halliday said. “They may also look to CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and OHA (Oregon Health Authority) and say anyone not vaccinated has to wear a face covering — I don’t know. As long as we work in concert with the health department, there’s still latitude for us to make decisions.”

Halliday expects further guidance from the state later this month.

Students who do not choose to attend classes on campus can still participate online through Philomath Academy.

The five-day school week will return to pre-COVID schedules with early release on Fridays to allow professional learning time for Philomath staff. During this past year, professional learning had been scheduled on Mondays.

The School Board met for the first time with Joe Dealy, Erin Gudge and Rick Wells in their seats. All three were sworn in by pro tem board chair Karen Skinkis, although Wells took an unconventional manner to reciting the oath.

Only Dealy and Gudge — along with continuing board members Skinkis and Anton Grube — were at the meeting when it started at 6 p.m. Skinkis put in a call to Wells and he called in to participate via phone. Wells took the oath over the phone and participated in board decisions.

In fact, Wells was elected as the board chair for 2021-22, although after the vote, he asked Skinkis to continue leading the meeting. Skinkis will again serve as the board’s vice chair.

The School Board met for an in-person meeting for the first time since the spring of 2020. The meeting, which had a light agenda, had no spectators from the general public in the district office board room.

In other news out of the July 1 meeting:

• The board unanimously approved a Kings Valley Charter School enrollment increase of 10 students in the rural campus’s middle school. Halliday and KVCS Executive Director Jamon Ellingson provided information. The school does have the necessary classroom space but the facility’s septic system preliminary review of water usage and attendance is pending. Some concerns were raised about possible budgetary impacts. The KVCS charter is scheduled to be reviewed next year and attendance will be a topic of discussion, which Grube brought up from the perspective that it “gives us a year to see how it goes.”

• The board unanimously approved a motion to move regular monthly meetings from the third Monday to the third Thursday. However, the next month’s meeting will actually take place on the fourth Thursday, Aug. 26 because teacher negotiations are scheduled to occur on Aug. 19.

• The board scheduled its annual board retreat to Aug. 12 at 4 p.m., in the school district office board room.

• The board unanimously approved a consent agenda that included several staff moves and various district designations that range from custodian of funds (Halliday) and budget officer (Director of Finance Bill Mancuso) to district legal counsel (Garrett, Hemann, Robertson) and auditor (Accuity, LLC).

Following is a list of votes taken by the Philomath School Board at its July 1 meeting:
• To nominate Rick Wells as the chair and Karen Skinkis as the vice chair of the Philomath School Board for 2021-22. Motion: Grube. Seconded: Dealy. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Dealy, Grube, Gudge, Skinkis, Wells).
• To approve a consent agenda that included the June 21 regular session minutes, June 23 work session minutes, annual designations, staff new hires/reassignments, resignations and an extra duty contract. Motion: Gudge. Seconded: Grube. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Dealy, Grube, Gudge, Skinkis, Wells).
• To approve a request by Kings Valley Charter School to increase enrollment by 10 students in the middle school. Motion: Grube. Seconded: Dealy. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Dealy, Grube, Gudge, Skinkis, Wells).