Danedri Thompson
The Spring Hill School Board struggled to reach a consensus on drafting a new smoking policy for the district. A divided board instead opted to allow smoking in personal vehicles in the school parking lot 30 minutes before and after school.
Board members debated proposed changes to school smoking policy at previous meetings discussing whether smoking and tobacco usage should be allowed on school grounds at any time.
“We need to do something because the law changed,” board president Nels Anderson said.
The Kansas Legislature passed a statewide smoking ban that went into effect July 1 of this year. Under the existing policy, adults were allowed to smoke 30 minutes before and after school outside school buildings away from doors.
Board member Chuck Willis suggested that the board ban smoking from school property altogether. Two other members – Max Strausbaugh and Bill
Meek agreed – but with only six board members at the meeting, a tie vote was not enough to make the suggestion official district policy.
Board member Scott Oberkrom said he was torn.
“I think we’re supposed to set a good example for a good education,” he told board members before the failed vote. “We should set a good example for our students…The thought on infringing on a person’s privilege, I can’t support an outright ban.”
Board member Chris King ultimately agreed expressing concern for staff members who may smoke or use tobacco products.
“I would want to make sure that the board is clear how this will impact staff,” King said.
Superintendent Bart Goering said any faculty or staff who violated an outright ban would be disciplined until they complied. That road could eventually lead to firing someone, but he said it was unlikely a staff member would refuse to comply.
Following discussion and a failed motion for an outright ban, Meek moved that the board adopt a policy that allowed smoking in personal vehicle within 30 minutes of school starting or ending.
The board adopted the policy over the objections of Willis and Strausbaugh.
“I think this allows us to maintain a tobacco free environment,” Oberkrom said.
Anderson agreed.
“This gives a little bit of leeway for staff, but provides us a tobacco free policy for students,” he said.
The smoking ban proposal was not the first item to see opposition on the board’s agenda. King opposed the consent agenda – which included an agenda item that hired a new paraprofessional in the school district.
He asked how many new positions the board has approved since finalizing the budget for the school year.
“I think three,” Goering said. “I think they’ve all been paras.”
Adding paraprofessional staff costs the district approximately $3,500 per staff member annually, Goering said. The state picks up the remainder of the tab.
“We don’t hire these positions lightly,” he said.
Goering said the positions are added when new students with special needs enroll in the district.
In other business, the board:
• approved an out-of-state trip for the Spring Hill High School Madrigals. The singing ensemble will perform at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Mo. on Nov. 7.
• approved minor changes to district policies.
• heard a presentation about the long-range planning committee’s recommendations. (See story.)