Lake High School 2021

File. The main entrance to Lake High School. 

MILLBURY — A Lake parent said a mask mandate may help control coronavirus cases that could close the schools due to staff shortages.

But board members and the superintendent said they will leave facial covering choices up to parents.

At Wednesday’s board meeting, parent Heather Ritson asked what the plan was to address coronavirus cases spiking at Lake Local Schools.

“You guys have really high rates,” she said. “What are you doing to help lower the numbers?”

Superintendent Jim Witt said most people are following protocols.

“We’re continuing to tell people whose children are sick to stay home,” he said. “Our teachers have been vigilant and we’re doing everything that we can.”

Ritson asked if a temporary mask mandate was being considered.

“That’s certainly gone through my mind,” Witt said. “I think more of our parents than not would be opposed to that.”

Board member Scott Swartz said any student or adult may choose to wear a mask to Lake schools.

“If you believe masks work — and obviously there’s differing opinions on that — and you send your child in a mask, then that should be effective,” Swartz said. “Mandating masks for everyone in the school, I’m struggling with that.”

“So parent satisfaction is above student safety?” Ritson said.

“I don’t see that there’s a benefit to forcing kids to wear one. If you, as a parent (choose masks), by all means, no one’s saying they can’t,” Swartz said.

Board member Brad Blandin said that most of Lake’s cases were coming from outside the schools.

“Unfortunately, we only control what happens here,” Blandin said.

“But aren’t exposures happening in the school?” Ritson said.

“That’s not what we’re experiencing,” Blandin said.

Ritson also asked what they were doing to attract substitutes to the district.

“We have raised our rates for substitutes across all categories,” said Treasurer Monica Leppelmeier.

Teachers are also getting compensated for covering other positions, she said.

Witt said that many substitutes are retired teachers and they don’t want to come back because of coronavirus fears.

After the meeting, Witt said staffing was up a bit on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, he sent a letter to families, saying staff shortages may cause school closings.

“Our motivation for the letter was to give people a heads-up,” Witt said. “We’re monitoring it day by day. Attendance was a little bit better today. Hopefully we’ll see things continue to improve.”

Also at the meeting, the board:

• Elected John Ervin as president and Swartz as vice president.

• Commended Tim Krugh for his years of service as board president.

• Decided to continue to meet the third Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m.

• Went into executive session to confer with an attorney and to talk about matters that are required to be kept confidential by federal law or rules or state statutes. No action was taken.No mask mandate at Lake, which is struggling with COVID