N.U. targets March 1 for five-day return to school


At Monday’s meeting of the North Union Board of Education, Superintendent Rich Baird presented an update of how the coronavirus is affecting students in the district.
The goal has been to get the students back to Learning Level 1 before the end of the 2020-2021 school year. Since Feb. 1, North Union elementary and middle school students have been attending school four days a week – Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, with Wednesdays as remote learning days. This also gives teachers time to help vulnerable students who need extra help on Wednesdays.
Students are still required to wear masks in the schools and on buses and practice social distancing. High school students are split into two groups, with one group in class on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other in class on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays are remote learning days and are used for students needing extra help. Each group also has remote learning on days they are not in class.
Baird proposed to the board members that all students kindergarten through 12th grade attend school five days a week beginning March 1. Baird continues to gather information from the Ohio Department of Education, Ohio Department of Health, Governor Mike DeWine’s office, Union County Emergency Management Agency, Mental Health and Recovery Board of Union County and the Union County Health Department, through surveys, meetings and conversations from the community, staff and students.
As part of the Reset/Restart Plan in Learning Level 1, elementary students will work in cohorts of less than 25 students, minimizing the possibility for exposure in large numbers. Middle school students work in cohorts of less than 50 students.
Baird told board members that on Saturday, 150 North Union staff members received their first COVID vaccinations. The second vaccination will be available in a few weeks. With the vaccinations, social distancing and wearing of masks, Baird hopes that the positive cases of COVID will remain low. He also stated that the board will review the plan at the March 16 board meeting, with the goal of continuing Learning Level 1 throughout the rest of the school year.
Kristi Matlack, Robotics Advisor, gave the board a review of this year’s activities with the robotics class. In the high school, there are six teams, which is a total of 24 students. The middle school has five teams, totaling 21 students and the elementary school has 10 teams of fourth, fifth and sixth grade students, with a total of 42 students participating in the VEX competitions. North Union teams have competed in 15 competitions with 12 events held in person. They have also earned 37 awards in those competitions. So far, 13 teams have qualified for the state championship, to be held in mid-April, in person at Marion. The VEX World Championship will be held in late May and will be remote.
Matlack also said that “It’s not just about the robots.” Students learn problem solving, critical thinking, learn teamwork and collaboration, build self-confidence, participate in public speaking and learn design and learning cycles.
This year was hard for the students because of the COVID restrictions. They competed in small events with fewer teams; had to wear masks and social distance; it was challenging to find judges and volunteers; no spectators were allowed to watch, but they were able to make the competitions live streamed so that family members could watch the events online.
Transportation Coordinator Brian Nauman and bus driver Kim Mathys gave an overview of the district’s bus garage compound. The compound was built in 2000 and the district had 20 buses and 15 drivers. Bus drivers kept buses at their homes. Only eight employees utilized the grounds for personal parking at that time. The building was used for fueling, repairs and summer storage. Due to insurance regulations, all buses were required in 2006 to be parked at the bus compound. It began to be used on a daily basis by all transportation employees.
In 2010, the district went to single bus routes. At that time, three buses and a van were added to the fleet and three new bus drivers were hired. There was not enough parking available for all the school and personal vehicles.
The need to expand the bus compound became apparent. The west fence was moved, increasing the lot by 52 feet in 2011.
By 2018, the bus compound parking lot began to flood during the rainy seasons due to past years of adding gravel to the lot. The last gravel added took place in 2008. A trench was dug to reroute the water away from the bus compound and toward Richwood Lake.
In 2020, the compound had 23 buses, five vans, two school trucks, 23 staff personal vehicles and it also housed the UCATS van. Staff have found it necessary to have the facility to be paved and drain the parking lot for safety reasons, due to winter ice and snow problems. Two employees have fallen and have had total hip replacements. The ice is treated immediately on all other school grounds and it needs to be viewed equally as important at the bus compound as well. The gravel lot can be treated with Ice Melt or rock salt, but water remains and it refreezes the next day due to the moisture on the lot.
This is not just a winter-type problem. Since no gravel has been added to the lot, the dust has caused breathing problems for some employees. It triggers asthmas and allergies from all the dust and everything in the bus garage, the buses, vans and vehicles are always covered in dust. Treasurer/CFO Scott Maruniak has suggested that the school architects be contacted to form a proposal/plan for paving the bus garage. Board members will discuss the problem at the next meeting.
In other business, board members;
•Approved an overnight stay as the District 3 Wrestling Tournament will be held at Coshocton High School, March 6-7. North Union’s wrestling team will be traveling there for competition. The cost of the trip will come from the athletic department budget.
•Approved Cole Krawczyk, high school varsity track coach, Penny Cunningham, HS assistant track coach, Zach Johnson, HS assistant track coach, Terry Setser, HS assistant varsity softball coach, Logan Martino, HS assistant (JV) softball coach, Trent Pugh, HS assistant (JV) baseball coach, Corey Lyles, HS varsity assistant baseball coach, to coaching positions.
•Accepted the following certificated individuals to coaching positions – Klarke Ransome, HS varsity baseball coach; Dawn Draper, HS varsity softball coach; Alexis and Zach Maenz, MS track coaches;
•Approved Steve Allen, HS softball; Wendy Wilson, HS softball; Jerry Sparks, HS track and Tanya Smith, HS track, as volunteer coaches.
•Approved Makaylin Johnston to be called on an as-needed basis as a substitute for the rest of the 2020-2021 school year.
•Hired Makaylin Johnston as a non-certified substitute; Hunter Gibson, sweeper/cleaner and Annie Schultz, bus.
The board also approved the following individuals as board members of the Richwood-North Union Public Library – Greg Ballinger, Allison Merritt-Cronley, Susan Heino, Martha Speyer, Carl Conrad, Connie Davis and Linda Davis.
The next regular meeting of the school board will be held Monday, March 15, 6:30 p.m. at the North Union Board of Education Offices.

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