The Montana City School Board of Trustees gave the nod to a sports spectator plan, while the Clancy Trustees listened to parent and student concerns regarding goggles and masks for volleyball players, as both boards weighed a need for normalcy for students against COVID-19 safety precautions.
Montana City met Sept. 9, followed by the Clancy Trustees on Sept. 10.
Montana City School, which had delayed the start of its volleyball and cross country season to Sept. 21, has a plan that calls for all games, matches and meets to take place on Fridays and Saturdays to allow for two to three days of clean up before students return to school.
“We just feel so confident with what we’ve done with the kids coming in the morning and separating them on bleachers — we feel we can do the same with spectators and control that environment,” said Daryl Mikesell, the K-2 and 6-8 principal.
The Trustees, concerned about the idea of spectators not obeying the rules set by the school, brought up a recent incident in Kalispell in which parents arrived at a board meeting refusing to wear masks.
“At the end of the day it’s real simple,” Mikesell responded, “ we aren’t going to sit here and argue about if you are going to wear [a mask] or not.”
The possibility was also discussed that if the social distancing and mask rules put in place by the school were fought or ignored, the game might be called off or law enforcement may become involved. Several Board members did not share the concern that spectators would break the rules, as parents have been following the guidelines put in place for football. Ultimately, the Board agreed to allow a plan for spectators to be approved by both the nurse and the extracurricular coordinator. This would allow for flexibility without needing to convene the Board to make changes.
The Trustees also discussed compensation for coaches.
In a plan drawn up by Mikesell, coaches would receive full pay for shorter seasons. Mikesell defended this choice, later supported by the Board, stating that “coaches are working harder than ever,” and sticking with the previous pay scale was about “respecting coaches.” This would change is the season was cancelled, then coaches would receive a prorated stipend commensurate with the length of the season.
At the Clancy School Board of Trustees meeting, much of the discussion was dominated by Ryan Fetherston, parents and students regarding the Trustees’ previous decision to require volleyball players to wear masks and goggles.
Fetherston, the Clancy football coach and a history teacher, said he was receiving complaints about the goggles. He said the players were uncomfortable in the googles because they tend to fog up and make it hard to see. Several volleyball players were in attendance and agreed with Fetherston.
“I asked them to come because this is where their voices can be heard,” he added.
One parent and nurse practitioner, Elizabeth McCarthy, supported the students in their efforts to remove the google requirement, saying to the best of her knowledge the goggles don’t improve students’ health or safety to any significant degree. She also suggested creating a waiver that allows parents to take on the responsibility if their child wanted to play without goggles. The Board declined to allow such a waiver, but otherwise could not address these concerns, vote on them, or discuss them at all due to the topic of volleyball safety protocol not being present on the agenda for public comment. They did propose a Special Board meeting for the following week to potentially discuss this matter. If planned, the public will be notified.