QUINCY — Denman first-grader Leo Mast had one reason to be excited for the first day of school.
Older sister Penny Mast had other reasons to look forward to classes starting.
“I get to meet all my classmates, and I get to spend time with my teacher,” the fifth-grader said.
Both had masks in place Wednesday, ready to head into the school.
“It’s hard to focus when you have to constantly breathe in the mask,” Penny said.
“But it helps protect us,” mom Diana Mast said. “All summer we got used to not wearing them. Now we’re back to it, which we’re fine with. We’ve just got to get back into the groove.”
Despite controversy surrounding indoor mask requirements, classes got underway in Quincy Public Schools with no confrontations.
“It’s been really good. No problems,” QPS Chief of Security Dan Arns said. “That’s exactly what we want and hope it stays that way.”
Superintendent Roy Webb said the day, in many ways, seemed typical.
“It’s fun to see parents taking pictures of their kids in front of the school and kids looking forward to the beginning of school. It brings some normalcy back,” said Webb, who provided an update on the first day of classes at Wednesday night’s School Board meeting. “It brings some normalcy back.”
Nearly all students heading into Quincy Junior High School already wore a mask or gaiter. The handful who didn’t were quickly offered a mask by QJHS staff members — and just as quickly put it on with no arguments.
“Masks don’t bother me. I’m OK with it,” sixth-grader Gabrielle Kuhlmeier said.
“It’s annoying, but I deal with it,” eighth-grader Jayden Heberlein said.
“The kids are awesome. They’ve been great already,” Quincy Junior High Assistant Principal Brenda Fleer said as she greeted students heading into the school. “If this is any indication of what the year is going to be like, we’ll take it.”
Staff members shared hellos and hugs, ensured students knew where to go to advisory classes and reminded one or two to pull a mask up over their nose — just as they had to do last school year.
“It’s normal,” Fleer said. “A lot of kids forget.”
But Fleer said everyone should be aware of the mask requirement — and what happens if it’s not met.
Students refusing to wear a mask will be offered options such as a gaiter, shield or mask. If students still refuse, administration will contact the parent/guardian to pick up the child.
Sending students home this week, and through Monday at Quincy High School and the Academy, will be marked as an excused absence while the school works with families to problem solve so learning can continue safely in line with district guidelines. After that, students who continue to refuse to wear a mask will be sent home with an unexcused absence.
Denman parent Rheagan DeVerger understands each parent has an opinion about masks.
“To each their own,” she said. “As far as masks go, I believe in education.”
Her kids — second-grader Elijah Striker and kindergartner Cadence Strieker — both had their masks on and backpacks filled.
“It’s not fun” wearing a mask, Elijah said.
“But we’ve got to do it,” DeVerger replied.
Waiting with his grandson outside of Denman, Jim Sanders said he offered his grandson Zaequil Churchill, a first-grader, some advice to start the year.
“I just talked to him about keeping his distance. If you want to give somebody some love, give them a fist bump instead of getting close,” Sanders said, and as for masks, “we’re kind of neutral on it, but I think it’s good protection.”
Also Wednesday, the Quincy School Board:
• Set a Sept. 22 public hearing on the 2021-22 district budget.
The tentative $85.7 million balanced spending plan looks very positive for the year ending June 30, with revenue outpacing expenses in the district’s four main operating funds and growing year-end balances thanks to federal funding tied to COVID-19.
• Learned that the elevator repairs are complete at Quincy Junior High School along with work, except for some landscaping, on the parking lot at the central office.
• Adopted revisions to 13 policies, including a provision allowing board members attending remotely to constitute a quorum for meetings. A quorum still is needed for the board to take official action, but board members do not need to be physically present in a change included in the latest Policy Reference Education Subscription Service, or PRESS, update.
• Approved plans for a trap shooting team at Quincy High School.
• Approved the 2021-22 budgets for the Special Education Association, Quincy Area Vocational Technical Center and West Central Region.