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Patrons speak up at GIPS board meeting
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Patrons speak up at GIPS board meeting

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(From left) Grand Island Public Schools Superintendent Tawana Grover and GIPS Board of Education members Bonnie Hinkle, Dan Brosz, Julie Gortemaker and Carlos Barcenas wear face masks while attending the GIPS board of education meeting Thursday night. (Independent/Austin Koeller)

September’s Grand Island Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting seemed less contentious than August’s, as the board presented updated protocols for public comment and offered an “Extended Request to Address the Board of Education.”

Solidified protocols were distributed to patrons arriving at the meeting. The succinct list clarified time allotted per speaker: Each person addressing the board is allowed five minutes. The board has the ability to limit speakers to three minutes when there are three or more patrons who wish to take the podium. The total speaking time allowed for addressing the board is 30 minutes at regular board meetings.

Among other specifications are:

—  Speakers are to address the board, not face the audience.

—  Those in the audience are to remain quiet.

—  Speakers are to keep mask over face while speaking, rather than remove it while addressing the board.

—  No signs in the board room.

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—  The board will not engage in dialogue with patrons presenting to the board.

—  At regular meetings, any district-related issue may be presented to the board, but only items specified on the agenda as action items may be acted upon.

Board of Education President Bonnie Hinkle read a statement on behalf of the board concerning public comment to open the meeting.

“We realize there was a discrepancy last month in the collection of the forms to address the board,” Hinkle said. “We have put new protocols in place so that won’t happen in the future. In order to rectify the discrepancy last month we have decided to make a one-time adjustment and all those who completed a form and thought they were able to speak at the last board of education meeting will speak tonight.”

Five speakers took the board up on the offer. Following the extended request, time was still allotted for regular public comment, which consisted of four speakers. Topics centered around mask mandates within the district, with the majority in opposition to masking requirements.

In other GIPS Board of Education action:

—  The board passed a resolution on the Safe Return to School plan unanimously. The plan was developed based on a community survey, the advice of medical professionals and a “Pandemic Team.” Of the plan, board member Dave Hulinsky said, “This is all about keeping people safe … this is not something we just snapped our fingers and decided. These rules were set in July. Eighty-three percent of the people who took that survey (concerning Safe Return to School) agreed with it, so we need to move forward from there.”

—  The proposed district budget for fiscal year 2021-22 was approved unanimously. Fiscal year 2021-2022 total budget cashes in at $174,650,000. The previous fiscal year amounted to $160,420,257. The district is to be reimbursed $3,247,000 in federal funds, including coronavirus relief funding sources ESSERS I and ESSERS II. Also included in the reimbursement will be funds for Title and SPED. (Watch The Independent for more information about COVID-19 funding received by area schools.)

— An open house for the O’Connor Learning Center is scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 26 at 2208 N. Webb Road in Grand Island. The center houses GIPS early childhood education facilities. Guided tours will be provided. Masks are required, as the learning center is a GIPS facility.

Jessica Votipka is the education reporter at the Grand Island Independent. She can be reached at 308-381-5420.

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Jessica Votipka is the education reporter at the Grand Island Independent. She can be reached at 308-381-5420

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