OC board hears about COVID policy, hears from union

Oil City School Board members heard an update Monday from Superintendent Lynda Weller about the district’s COVID policy going into the upcoming school year.

The panel was also addressed by two members of the Oil City Education Support Professionals union who discussed the district’s current negotiations with the union on a new contract.

Weller said the district has approved a more general COVID-related health and safety Plan this year that says the district will comply with guidance from the CDC and the state Department of Health on matters such as mask-wearing, cleaning, social distancing, and other directives.

“The CDC has recommended that unvaccinated people should wear masks, but that doesn’t mean they have to. We will be looking into it more,” Weller said.

She added that “currently the cases in Venango County are very low. If cases rise dramatically, unvaccinated students, kindergarten through 11 years of age, and unvaccinated staff will have to wear masks.”

The district won’t continue its virtual academy program, but a cyber school option will be offered, Weller said.

Weller said the virtual academy was “good in a pinch but not something we want to continue.” She added that face-to-face instruction has proven better for teachers and students.

Weller said the district is looking to partner with Warren Area School District for cyber schooling.

Warren’s cyber program offers many more options than other cyber providers the district has partnered with in the past, including 67 electives for high school students to choose from, Weller said.

She added that Warren’s cyber program would cost the district just under $3,000 per student, whereas other providers have charged the district about $4,500 per student.

In other business Monday, Robin Evans, a school district employee and president of the Oil City Education Support Professionals, the labor union that represents about 45 support staff in the district, and Chris Trbusich, a member of the union and a district paraprofessional, spoke to the board.

Evans noted that last month the board approved raises for non-bargaining unit employees such as administrators, but thus far during negotiations with her union they have “taken the position that my members should not receive pay increases for the work that they faithfully provided last school year- the same 2020-2021 school year for which all other employees did receive wage increases.”

She asked the board for an explanation during the next scheduled bargaining session on July 27.

The district’s contract with the union expired in June 2020, and the support professionals have continued to work under the terms of that contract during negotiations.

Trbusich noted the hard work and dedication of the administrative assistants, health technicians, and paraprofessionals in the district, who she felt were being “disrespected” by the current contract negotiations.

She appealed to the board to “agree to a contract that is fair and equitable.”

“The value that you place on us – the support staff – reflects the value that you place on students,” Trbusich told the board.

Weller recognized a number of school district student-athletes for achievements in their sports.

The students were Mario Fontanazza, Lizzy Hoovler, Kaya Skinner, Dom Guiste, Dylan Lux, Jack Mumford, Sean Stack, Cam Weller, Seth Yeager, Helena Adams, Kelsy Anderson, Jenna Fischli, Meghan Flinchbaugh, Jada Heeter, Emma Horn, Ashia Jackson, Madison Salvo, Baine Snyder, Emily Bly, Haylee Horn, and Gabbie Kerr.

Weller also mentioned the five Oil City High School students who are candidates for Oil Heritage Festival queen later this week. They are Emily Bly, Emily Coxson, Tori McClelland, Alexandra Webster, and Dana Wenner.