North Hills School District News Article

School board split on masks; Aug. 5 meeting suspended until Aug. 17

Posted Friday, August 6, 2021

The NHSD Board of Education Committee with Action on Aug. 5 has been suspended until Thursday, Aug. 17 at 6 p.m. after board members failed to approve a health and safety plan for the 2021-22 school year.

The original, proposed plan, which strongly recommended masks indoors for all students but kept them a parental choice, failed with five “no” votes. Board members Katie Poniatowski, Rachael Rennebeck and Helen “Dee” Spade voted for the plan. Dr. Annette Giovengo Nolish was not in attendance.

Five additional motions to amend the plan and come to an agreement, specifically in regards to mandating masks or making them optional, also failed. The motions included requiring masks for all students and staff in elementary schools, all students and staff in grades K-12, and other combinations dependent on Allegheny County’s level of community transmission, among other scenarios.

The discussion continued well into the night and ultimately ended with the decision to suspend the meeting and reconvene on Aug. 17.

Board President Allison Mathis asked for patience in the coming weeks.

"The board did not meet over the summer and obviously has varying views on how to proceed, particularly as recommendations by multiple government agencies have changed over the past weeks,” she wrote Friday morning. “I have respect for all opinions on the board and for all my colleagues who have been forced to make difficult choices over the past 18 months. Let me be clear — what you saw last night was transparency and disagreement, not the inability to make a decision."

Rewatch the meeting at this link. Review the initial health and safety plan as presented and submitted to the state, as required, here.

A final health and safety plan is due to the state by Sept. 1. However, the NHSD Board of Education must approve a plan by the first day of school, Aug. 25.

With the exception of the health and safety plan, action was taken on all remaining Aug. 5 agenda items.

Those who plan to attend the reconvened meeting on Aug. 17 in person are asked to register using this link.

The meeting will be streamed live on the district's YouTube channel but you must be physically in attendance to comment publicly.

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