May 9th Board of Education meeting

The recent Fayetteville-Manlius school board meeting on May 9th at Eagle Hill Middle School repeated some similar issues which had been brought up before and provided an overview of some of the solutions the school is looking to implement.

Four teachers from FM:  Karen Ugino, who teaches 3rd grade at Enders Road; Brent Mydoffer, who teachers science at the high school; Jennifer Palmer, who teaches kindergarten at Mott Road; and Patrica Winge, who teaches 8th grade math at Eagle Hill, joined seven other FM teachers in being named New York State Master Teachers by the state governor. 

Discussion concerning the universal pre-K continued. $712,800 for funding was given for the program that would service 132 kids, around 4 years of age. Currently, the district does not have the space to house the program in their own buildings and has requested for outside entities to operate the program. The universal pre-K is expected to begin in September 2022.

The public comments section of the meeting generally had people speaking about two main issues: reasoning for adopting electric buses instead of our current diesel-fueled ones and the mental health at FM High. Ike Woods, a senior at FM, reiterated the issue of mental health, saying “This is not last month’s issue – this is a permanent issue inside of our school’s culture.” He recalled the stress for AP exams that had been happening, asking, “Do you feel stressed yet? Because this is how nearly every student feels at this school.” He proposed the school make a survey or questionnaire for students, to learn what students are struggling with. Michael Ouyang, another senior, also spoke, “Us and the school are on the same team, and we need to work together to get anything done.” Ouyang also advocated for more awareness about the existence of and use of family school liaisons.

The board meeting also laid out some of the ways the school is trying to help with the issue of mental health. Tier 3 supports, a series of changes and supports to try and help students with mental health issues, were given an update. They would be expanded, with around $1.2 million being used. Two additional family liaisons would be hired, and during staff development day, there would be in-person mental health training for teachers. The board also discussed expanding these programs to students.

The meeting also discussed how masks no longer being mandated have affected the district. Following March 2 – when the mask mandate was removed –  379 students have been sent home from either COVID-19 or displaying some symptoms, while it was much lower before. All statistics say that since masks came off, the numbers have substantially increased, though a part of this is likely because masks no longer being mandated coincided with the surge of the omicron variant of the virus. The board stated they were going to keep monitoring the situation but the state is taking some resources for monitoring away. Social distancing at the high school will continue, but not in the elementary schools. 

Several people recommended people be aware of the health risks of diesel buses. Student Jennifer Furey, whose statements were read by her teacher, brought up particles in diesel that could travel through your nose, directly into your brain, and have been documented as having effects on the development of fetuses. These particles can also enter the lungs and inhibit respiratory inhalation. Debora Disocio stated that diesel buses should be regarded as a risk to health due to having some connections with cancer. The financial side of things is a worry here though, as according to other comments during this panel, the district does not have the money or the infrastructure to switch to electric buses right now. Donald Hughes claimed, though, switching to electric buses would not only be environmentally better, but could also be financially better as it could lead to gaining some money. He also mentioned that the USEPA act could cover the costs needed to switch to electrical buses. “It’s a disaster unfolding in front of us – let’s stop it as best as we can,” he argued, and it seemed to be the general consensus among the people who spoke.