Editor’s Note: This story is the second installment in a series detailing the plan for Alliance Public Schools to reopen. The previous article, which can be located in the July 22, 2020 issue of the Alliance Times-Herald described the initial plan created by Alliance Public Schools.

Alliance School Board Members shared their opinions about the plan to reopen Alliance Public Schools in the fall at their meeting on July 13. They are expected to vote on a finalized plan at a special meeting on Aug. 3 at the Alliance High School Performing Arts Center.

After hearing details about the initial plan from Superintendent Dr. Troy Unzicker, School Board Member Karen Trussell shared her views on having students wear masks or having their temperatures taken before entering the facilities

“It’s no secret that I’m against mask wearing,” said Trussell. “I think that if our children, some wear masks, and some don’t, I think you’re opening the door for bullying for one thing just because what they’ve heard at home. And taking temperatures, I know from past experiences, maybe it’s different now, but if I had a child get sick about 10 o’clock, they might say to me, ‘I was sick last night. I was throwing up, but mom gave me some Tylenol this morning.’ Maybe that’s not the case anymore, but years ago, that was the case. So, I’m not in favor of temperatures being taken either.”

Board President Tim Kollars said he believes the response to the coronavirus outbreak has left deep wounds that will take time to heal.

“I am against anything changing,” Kollars said. “We have seen disingenuous behavior from the Governor, the State Health Officer, the Panhandle Health Coalition. They don’t do what they say. We need to get our kids back in school. We have damaged our kids’ education. We’ve damaged their activities. We’ve damaged everything about what they have done this year. (…) We’ve hurt the kids every way there is. The only way we’re going to get past this is just go back. Start going.

“We closed school with no cases whatsoever in this whole county,” said Kollars. “For no reason at all, we closed school. We could have stayed open until there was a problem. We don’t have a problem. We have a problem by not being fair to our kids. None of them. We’re not being fair to our kids. We’re not being fair to our parents. (...)”

Kollars believes that even with COVID-19 in the Panhandle, Alliance Public Schools should work hard to serve their students so as to prevent further damage to their education.

“Like it or not, there’s a virus out there,” Kollars said. “Some people are going to get sick. The more we hide behind the Panhandle Health Coalition, or a CDC regulation that doesn’t even affect us, the worse off we’re going to treat our kids. (…) I think we start school at a normal time, and we do things normal.

“It’s terrible what we did, and it’s not necessarily people’s fault (...),” said Kollars. “This board is here, and this school district is here to have the best education we can for our students, and we haven’t done it because we’ve done what somebody else wanted us to do.”

Board Member Josh Freiberger said the board should not allow the virus to have an impact on students in Alliance Public Schools, and should return to normal operations.

“The problem’s here,” Freiberger said. “A virus doesn’t just magically, there’s not a cure for it, it’s not just going to go away. It’s here. We’re not doing anybody justice in this area by following some retarded guideline from people that.”

“Disingenuous,” said Kollars, correcting Freiberger’s statement.

“Disingenuous (guidelines). Okay, sorry. I’m just as sick of it as a lot of people. We just need to do what’s best for the kids and get them back to normal, then we can go about our business and get back to normal.”

After hearing input from the board members, Unzicker asked if they would like to have a special meeting to approve a reopening plan, or if they would like to wait to see if new Directed Health Measures are issued by Governor Pete Ricketts. Kollars said it would not matter when the vote would happen, because he would vote the same way, regardless of the guidelines.

“I’m tired of the ridiculousness of this whole situation,” said Kollars. “We’re hurting our kids, and that’s the bottom line. We’ve spent, on this board and this administration, for years, we have said, time after time, we do what’s best for the kids, and possible for the rest of us, and that’s the way I want to stay, because that’s why we are here. It isn’t for what’s easy for us, or what argument we might have to have. It’s doing what’s best for the kids. And what’s best for the kids right now is to get them back in school, get them back under teachers’ control, get them back to where they have to do what they’re supposed to do, and have the instruction and guidance to do what they are supposed to do. Because, that’s what we’re here for.”

Freiberger said that through working with his children through the summer with sports, he believes the students are ready to go back to school.

“I’m involved with my kids in sports all summer, and, you know, on my daughter’s 12 and 13 year-old All Star Team, all those girls are like, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to go back to school. I hope we don’t have to wear masks and do these stupid things.’ When that’s coming from a 12 and 13 year-old, you know that, let’s get back to normal. Let’s just go do things the way they’re meant to be done (...),” Freiberger said.

Kollars said overcoming adversity is the key to the success of the nation.

“This country wasn’t founded on hiding behind a tree,” said Kollars. “It was founded on meeting every obstacle we came across and conquering it.”

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