Willamston’s school board gets down to business despite rising election tensions

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Despite rising tensions around a re-vote of Williamston school board over a trans-inclusive bathroom rule, the Oct. 1 meeting was business as usual.

The board focused on working to get a passenger van, approve the construction of a dividing wall to separate a section of the gym for the wrestling team and review the goals of the board and its respective progress.

The decision between whether to vote for new board members or re-vote for the same members over a rule passed by the current school board which attempted to be more inclusive for transgender students in the district.

The rule wanted to lay out a rule that would allow students who identify as transgender to use the appropriate school facilities during the school day according to their gender identiry, which has become a divisive topic at previous school board meetings overshadowing other work being done at the meetings.

Work like a passenger van or the district, which has been a pet project of Williamston’s athletic director, Tom Hampton, who gave the presentation to the board for why it would be an effective cost saving utility for the district. The use of a smaller school vehicle, Hampton argued, would save the district in his estimates around $2,000 per year by not needing to rent a costlier bus when only a smaller vehicle is needed.

Taking equipment or smaller teams of students from sports programs or extra-curricular clubs.

This van would be owned by the district, but as board member, Nancy Deal pointed out, there needs to be policies and procedures in place before the vehicle arrives so that there aren’t any grey areas of concern for anyone.

Keeping with the cost-saving theme of the night’s meeting, board member Jeffrey West proposed an amendment to an existing board rule which outlines the process for billing local groups using school facilities during off times, like weekends or late hours, that aren’t directly school related events.

“Promises were made to our stakeholders, our taxpayers,” West said.

West was referring to the way the existing rule was laid out when it was originally written to try and deal with the problem of having some of the sports programs leave the hands of the school and become township run programs, West said.

The addition West proposed would allow local groups and organizations to continue to utilize the school’s facilities as they have for years without having to foot a bill that West cited as running around $200 or $250 in one example he provided.

“At least 10 bills have gone out,” West said.

West’s goal with the added language was to not charge groups that don’t have the money to continuously pay for the use of school facilities, or charge teachers who bring their kid and have them “shoot hoops on a Saturday” West said, when other groups that do have the money could still pay the bill for using the school’s facilities.

The board voted to add additional language to preemptively allow for the district to review and potentially refund the already billed groups if they aren’t required to pay under the proposed revisions to the rule. The board has moved it to the agenda of the next meeting on Oct. 15.

In an effort to keep students healthy while utilizing the school’s gym facilities, the board heard Hampton’s presentation for a proposed wall to separate the wrestling area and its mats from the rest of the gym facilities.Hampton presented a blueprint that diagrams what the new dividing wall would look like that would help to keep foot traffic away from the wrestling masts.

When left unattended during the day they can become dirty and potentially hazardous to student’s health when the cleaning schedule isn’t monitored by the coaching staff of the wrestling team and stored away from students during the school day.

The next board meeting on Oct. 15 will continue the boards discussion of considering the proposal for a van for the district to utilize and vote to pass the new language on the use of district’s facilities rule.

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