Iron County school board to address late-start schedule, mask exemptions, other issues

Iron County School District Board of Education work meeting, Cedar City, Utah, April 20, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — An Iron County School District school board member is proposing to do away with “late-start Wednesdays” for secondary schools, a schedule that has been in place since the 2014-15 school year.

Jeff Corry, whose 43-year teaching career included 33 years at Cedar High before he retired a few years ago, said eliminating late-start was one of the reasons he ran for school board last year.

Rather than secondary schools starting classes one hour and 50 minutes later than usual on Wednesdays, Corry said he’s proposing that students get let out earlier on a designated day each week

During the school board’s regular monthly work meeting last week, Corry had indicated Mondays were his preference for early-out days.

However, in a Facebook post from Corry on Monday evening, he said he was instead leaning toward Fridays or possibly Wednesdays due to the “negative feedback” he said he’d received regarding Mondays.

On Tuesday morning, Corry told Cedar City News that the people he’s received responses from are heavily in favor of early-out Fridays.

When Corry outlined his proposal during last Tuesday’s work meeting, he brought up the issue of tardiness, saying he believes keeping a consistent starting time each day will help cut down on students arriving late to school.

“Wednesdays were the greatest tardy days,” he said as he presented a series of slides showing attendance data from the district’s five secondary schools. Four of those five schools report more tardies on Wednesdays than any other day of the week, he said, noting that only Parowan, whose middle school and high schools are combined, did not see its highest incidence of tardies on Wednesdays.

Iron County School District offices, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 4, 2020 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Corry had said last week that he intended for the late-start issue to be an action item for the regular meeting this week, but other board members had indicated more time might be needed.

“I think it might be premature to say, ‘Let’s take action on this next week,’” board president Michelle Lambert said. “I think we need to get maybe more direction from our communities before we jump into it.”

Tuesday morning, Corry confirmed with Cedar City News that the issue will still be discussed, but he does not plan to bring it to a vote at Tuesday night’s regular board meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. and includes an agenda item for “public input.” He said he hopes to bring it up it as an action item next month.

Although Corry had also wanted to adjust the early-out time to be just one hour earlier and restoring 50 minutes of classroom instruction time, rather than having the students’ day be almost two hours shorter, as is currently the case for late-start, he later noted that the plan appears to be unworkable due to bus schedules.

“If we let the secondary students out at 1:40, the elementary kids would be picked up first and there wouldn’t be enough buses to go pick up the secondary kids,” he said, noting that the secondary students will likely need to be let out at 12:30 p.m. on early-out days due to transportation logistics.

Another issue on Tuesday night’s agenda is “Utah Health Order 2021-2 Clarification,” which seeks to clarify the district’s position regarding allowing parents to exempt their own children from wearing masks.

Although Utah’s statewide mask mandate was lifted April 10, public K-12 schools throughout the state are still requiring face coverings to be worn by students and staff until the end of the current school year.

However, as of last week, some parents have reportedly been able to exempt their own children from having to wear a mask at school. 

Stock image by Halfpoint/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

According to the directive, exemptions may be granted in cases involving “a medical condition, a mental condition, or an intellectual or developmental disability that prevents them from wearing a face mask.” 

Although a note signed by a doctor or other medical professional is still needed for a medical condition exemption, board member Dave Stahehli said last week the district would start allowing parents to make that determination for their own children for either of the other two categories.

“What we did at this last meeting was just clarify that we can’t require a medical directive for mental conditions or intellectual or developmental disabilities,” Staheli told Cedar City News on Tuesday morning. “So that that was kind of just a consensus we reached last week without a vote, and that it would start immediately, which it did.”

Staheli added that the Iron County School District has given “unofficial direction” to the schools to honor that.

“There have been a few schools that still have not gotten clear information on that, apparently, because the district has had to send out a few individual instructions to different schools who still were giving citizens a bit of a hard time on it. But I think those have all been worked out. And so right now, the status is that the district is telling the schools, at least on a case-by-case basis, to allow that.”

“Tonight, we should have a formal statement and direction from the board to the district that makes it official,” Staheli added.

District officials confirmed this week that some parent-signed mask exemptions have already been granted in such a fashion, with each being handled at the school level at the discretion of school administrators. 

At least two other school districts — Kane and San Juan — have also begun similarly allowing parent-signed exemptions, The Salt Lake Tribune reported on Saturday.

There’s less than one month remaining in the 2020-21 school year, which officially ends on May 26.

On a related note, the district’s high school graduation plans have officially been set, with Canyon View and Cedar High both having traditional ceremonies in SUU’s football stadium on May 24. Canyon View’s will be at 1 p.m. and Cedar’s will be at 5 p.m. Additionally, Parowan High’s graduation will be at 5 p.m. that same day in the school’s auditorium. There won’t be any graduation parades like those that took place last year when graduation ceremonies were canceled due to COVID-19.

For a link to the agenda for Tuesday evening’s school board meeting starting at 5:30 p.m., click here.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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