Hart District extends emergency powers, OKs teaching from home

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William S. Hart Union High School District governing board members extended the superintendent’s emergency powers and allowed teachers to instruct from home during the pandemic at a Wednesday morning meeting.

The decision regarding Superintendent Mike Kuhlman’s expanded authority was initially approved at the onset of the pandemic.

The extension will allow Kuhlman “any and all actions necessary to ensure the continuation of public education, and health and safety of the students and staff,” the board agenda reads.

In addition to the extension, board members said they’d expand his purchasing powers, as well, allowing Kuhlman to make financial decisions as it relates to COVID-19.

The purchasing power is for items like sanitizer, face shields, masks and any other supplies needed to ensure the campuses, once they eventually reopen, are safe, said board President Linda Storli.

“Through the discussion we decided that he will have the power to purchase things, such as for sanitizer, shields and masks, and he won’t have to come to us for that,” said Storli. “We want him to have the power to do what he needs to do … and purchase things for COVID.”

The board agenda stated the purchasing power is limited to buying supplies and executing contracts that directly “respond to the emergency conditions,” and did not have a cost limit that would require board approval.

The emergency powers have a cutoff date for the first board meeting in December. Then, the board can decide whether to re-up on them once again, Storli said.

In addition to the resolution declaring emergency conditions exist, Storli said when classes begin Aug. 11, teachers will be given a choice between teaching from home or teaching from the classroom.

“The teachers are going to have the option to teach from home or from the classroom. With the codicil that it’s on time, it’s professional and it’s every day during the time that they should be teaching,” said Storli.

The board’s decision, Storli said, was based on safety for the teachers, but also largely because of teachers’ possible child care needs.

“We can keep one person in a classroom safe, but it’s all the issues with children at home and not having the proper child care,” said Storli. “This was a difficult decision to make … but (because of) the nature of the pandemic, (we) said they can teach from home and have it be professional.”

The emergency declaration was approved unanimously by the board, and the motion allowing teachers to have flexibility on where they teach was approved 4-0, with board member Steve Sturgeon being unable to cast his second vote due to internet connection issues.

The board’s next meeting is scheduled to take place virtually on Aug. 5.

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