FORT WAYNE, Indiana (WANE) – Northwestern Allen County Schools (NACS) sent a letter to parents to discuss new protocols for school board meetings after the district said an interview with the radio from an Allen County Sheriff’s Deputy had caused confusion.
In Thursday morning’s interview on WOWO 1190AM, Deputy Chief Troy Hershberger said the Allen County Sheriff’s Department never asked NACS to make changes to the school board meeting protocol or resolve security concerns.
NACS Superintendent Chris Himsel agreed the sheriff’s department had not made specific recommendations. However, he points to an email from officers who said they would no longer provide security if the council meetings remained controversial.
The district suspended public comment in September after the board meeting crowd grew louder and louder about masks and mask warrants. Earlier this week, the board extended the mask’s tenure until the end of the semester.
In an exclusive interview with WANE 15, Himsel said that an agent from the department contacted via email to communicate the security concerns to the board and attendees. Himsel said members of the public cursed, cursed and used “other types of inappropriate language.”
“We have had situations where affected members of the police department felt the need to create a perimeter around the scene so that people did not step onto the scene,” Himsel explained.
A second September 17 email informed the district that school resource officers, who are also members of the sheriff’s department, will no longer work on council security “as long as the current format and atmosphere” continues.
Last month, the ministry confirmed in an email to WANE 15 that school resource officials had expressed concerns and informed NACS that something needed to be done as meetings grew more and more lively. The ministry said it had not advised the school on specific measures to take to increase security.
WANE 15 contacted the Allen and Hershberger County Sheriff’s Department for further comment on Friday, but had no response.
While there is currently no public comment or meeting with an in-person audience, Himsel said the goal is to get back to normal.
“Our goal is to come back to our board meetings as we normally have them, with public comments and so on,” Himsel said. “We are reviewing our procedures and trying to make sure that we provide a safe environment not only for those attending the meeting, but for any clients who choose to come to the meetings.”
Himsel said most of the district’s comments have been positive despite a vocal group of parents who are against the masking.
“We also have a group of customers who would like us to have more restrictions than we have and we have a group of people who would like us to have fewer restrictions than we have. We have perspectives on both ends of this spectrum and what we’re trying to do is listen to all of these things, but also do something practical for our students.
For Himsel, the goal is to keep as many students as possible in the classroom.
“We listened to the Allen County Department of Health. We listened to the Indiana Department of Health. We sought advice from the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, and we also spoke directly with healthcare workers at Parkview, Lutheran, and IU Health to help us understand what these issues are. We are trying to fix this problem and find the best possible solution, ”Himsel said. “At the end of the day, the current rules that we must follow say that while we are universal masking, there is no quarantine in any of the close contacts.”
According to Himsel, over the past two weeks, with the neighborhood completely covered, 14 students have been quarantined. If there hadn’t been a cover mask warrant, he said they would have had to quarantine more than 300 students.
The rules Himsel referenced date from September 3, when the Indiana Department of Health updated its quarantine guidelines for students, which say that if everyone is masked, close contact of people with COVID -19 need to monitor their systems for 14 days but do not need to. quarantine unless symptoms develop.
Under those same rules, if masks were optional and some people were unmasked and unvaccinated, close contacts within six feet should be quarantined for 10 to 14 days. This quarantine may end earlier if they are able to show a negative COVID-19 test on days 5, 6 or 7 of the quarantine.
The letter to parents also addresses concerns brought to the district about socio-emotional learning, also known as SEL. Himsel said in the letter that SEL has been something the district has been teaching for years and will continue to teach in the future as it helps students with personal growth as well as intellectual growth.
“It’s also about helping children reduce their anxiety, helping them develop positive relationships with their peers, resolving conflicts,” Himsel said. “It’s also about meeting some of the legal requirements that we have, in terms of taking action to reduce alcohol and drug use, as well as suicide prevention at school. “
According to the letter, socio-emotional learning addresses several skills identified in the Indiana Employability Skills Standard, which are to be taught to Indiana students in Kindergarten to Grade 12.
“It complements what we do on an academic basis, but these are the things we’ve all learned: work hard, get along with others, treat people right,” Himsel said. “It’s all of those kinds of things that make up SALT.”
Himsel said parents generally understand when socio-emotional learning is explained to them, but the use of “professional lingo” like SEL has caused some confusion. The solution, he said, is more communication.
“We need to use less of our professional lingo and we need to explain more of what we’re doing,” Himsel said. “Sometimes it’s difficult because we live in the world of educators and we are used to reading our education journals, talking to other educators.”
He encourages parents to contact their students’ schools or teachers if they have any concerns about what students are learning in class.
“Usually we can clear things up, but in the rare event that we have someone who has made a mistake, bringing it to the attention of the manager allows them to step in and make that correction,” said Himsel. “We’re all human, we’re all going to have good days and bad days.”