Hannibal Schools to remain mask optional

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HANNIBAL, Mo. – After 100 minutes of comments from patrons of the Hannibal School District, the school board maintained its policy of masks optional for students during the upcoming school year.

More than a dozen people spoke on both sides of the issue but in the end, the board voted 6 to 1 in favor of approving the recommendations of Superintendent Susan Johnson regarding the district’s “Safe Ready to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan.” The plan includes a mask option in Hannibal Public Schools for the upcoming school year, but Johnson added that masks are highly recommended.

Another key issue in the plan is a requirement that anyone riding on a school bus must wear a mask, regardless of their vaccination status. Johnson said that is a mandate from the Federal Centers for Disease Control. Johnson noted that as much as possible, the district will serve rural bus routes with air-conditioned busses. The district will also resume bus service for all students who live a mile or more from their school. Last year that was changed to a mile and a quarter.

In voting for the plan, the board agreed with Johnson to meet more frequently so they can keep tabs on the Covid pandemic and its effects locally. Among the concerns of patrons in favor of a mask mandate is the shortage of pediatric ICU beds. As of Tuesday, there were only ten such beds available in Missouri. None were in Hannibal. Many of the patrons opposed to a mask mandate say masks are ineffective. One reason for that, they say, is that children do not, or cannot, wear the masks properly.

In other news, the school district saved more than $165,000 in utility costs last year thanks to its Energy Education Program. Business Manager Rich Stilley said the district replaced all of its lighting with LED, replaced boilers which use less water to create heat, and installed technology that allows temperatures to be set back during off times. Using his own office as an example, Stilley said at night the air-conditioner is set at 78 degrees, but it is cooler during the day when it is in use. More utility upgrades are in store for the district. Stilley noted that the Patch Center and Oakwood Elementary School are both due for upgrades. 

The board will hold a public hearing at 5:30 next Wednesday, August 25 to set the tax rate for the new fiscal year. That meeting will be held in the Hannibal High School Auditorium.

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