School board scraps employee mandate after ruling

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft Board of Education won’t issue a vaccine mandate for employees after a federal mandate was struck down by the Supreme Court this month.

The board discussed the issue during its monthly meeting on Jan. 3. Trustees agreed to wait for the results of that ruling before making any decisions themselves. Board President Jennifer Gottschalk confirmed after the ruling that the district will implement any kind of mandate. During the board meeting, she stated in her opinion that vaccination status was a private matter.

“I don’t like the idea of us collecting vaccination cards from anybody,” Gottschalk said.

The trustees agree they wanted Superintendent Rick Frens to make decisions on COVID-related matters. Frens said that while the district is lifting mask requirements for kindergarten through sixth grade, it is still important for unvaccinated kids to wear a mask.

At that early-January meeting, he reminded the board that the omicron variant had recently been discovered in Kalamazoo, although most of the cases had been mild.

“They’re predicting that we will see a spike in cases, but that it will not be an ongoing thing,” Frens said. Reported cases and positive rest results increased through the first weeks of January.

Positive cases of Covid have created some staffing challenges in the district. Frens and Elementary Principal Matt Webster have worked together on addressing the challenges head on. Most notably they have gotten creative with getting staff members to fill in where they can. Both Webster and High School Principal Matthew Dailey have stepped in recently.

“I wanted to put it out there that we’re monitoring all this and putting people in place and filling holes where we can,” Webster said.

In other news, the board is now working with the Fourth of July committee on the possibility of a fireworks display behind the middle school for this year. The committee was on hand at the meeting to ask about that and the possibility of food trucks in the parking lot between the elementary and middle school.

The trustees said they were fine with both ideas. However, Gottschalk noted there is a possibility that current construction efforts on the new facilities may be taking place in the spot the committee wants to hold fireworks. Gottschalk said she would reach out to others in the village to discuss the matter further. Trustees said they did want to help the committee where they can.

The board also seated its officers for 2022, making no changes from 2021, with Gottschalk serving as president, Jason Walther as vice president, Wade Rutkoskie as treasurer, and Katie Redmond as secretary.

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