WVCSD School Board takes questions about money, pre-K, bus fuel, bus drivers and masks

No school board has been more aggressive than WV in pushing elected officials to adjust mask requirements to the latest scientific metrics, Supt. David Leach said.

| 28 Feb 2022 | 01:42

A question and answer session ranged from money and bus fuel to mandatory masks after Warwick Valley School Superintendent David Leach and Assistant Superintendent for Business Timothy Holmes finished their budget presentation. Recently-elected school board member Bill Fanos asked the Superintendent about impacts to the taxpayer for programs such as pre-K.

Board member Lynn Lillian said, “We’re not obligated to offer (programming) when the money runs out.”

“We put pre-K out to bid” Holmes said, “to determine how to budget for it.”

Board president Keith Parsons asked if there will be any income to come from the former Pine Island Elementary building. Leach said that PIE “will be fully rented, with few exceptions...it’s a win-win,” as the district’s own children will be educated there. “It’s exciting for us.”

Parsons also wondered about transportation costs. “We’re optimistic we’ll be back to pre-pandemic demand,” said Leach.

Also, with regard to alternatives to conventional gasoline-powered buses, Holmes said that he expects “24 percent of the fleet to use propane. Electric will come, but it’s too pricey for now.”

He added that there will be more electric buses as part of the fleet, “probably within about five years.”

WV – like many parts of the country – is experiencing a school bus driver shortage: “There are 53 assigned drivers, 4 subs; (we’re) about 8 short,” Holmes said.

Leach said that the district is looking into incentives to attract drivers: It’s “a national challenge.”

Masking controversy

Fanos told the board that he wanted parents “who want masks on, masks off (of children)” to speak for the record about the ‘Gestapo tactics’ – as he sees it - of elected officials, and especially the health department.

He said he felt that the administration and the school board are “left out in the breeze,” and that “We can’t redress these grievances” because of the Orange County Board of Health. Fanos added that he spoke with County Executive Steve Neuhaus, and was concerned about “extortion” from the County Executive, and that WV would be in jeopardy of losing its state funding if the schools don’t comply with the current mask mandates.

Fanos’ comments drew a burst of applause from members of the public.

Leach said that he had upcoming meetings with NY State Senators Martucci and Skoufis, and that Skoufis’ opinion on the mask issue had “shifted” recently.

Leach maintained that there’s been “no school board more aggressive than WV” in terms of pushing elected officials to adjust mask requirements based on the latest scientific metrics.

Still, Leach continued, WV must by law follow state mandates, based on his conversations with the school districts’ legal counsel and its insurance carrier.

“We’re on the cusp of turning the page” Leach said.

He feels that masks “have been a bit of a distraction.”

Fanos said that he feels that masks have been “harmful to students.”

His comment that lockdowns and quarantines have done “irreparable damage to kids” met with enthusiastic applause.

For his part, Leach said: “Our educators are working to address” any shortfalls caused by pandemic mitigation measures. Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum James Yap is working on an after-school program for next year: “Kids can be quite resilient when provided supports,” Leach said.

NEXT: Thursday, March 3, 2022 – Work session: budget update

WV – like many parts of the country – is experiencing a school bus driver shortage: “There are 53 assigned drivers, 4 subs; (we’re) about 8 short,” - Tim Holmes, WVCSD assistant superintendent for business.