School board will appoint a new member at January meeting

by David Boyle
News Director
Members of the San Juan School Board heard from candidates for an open school board seat and discussed a Whitehorse High School student petition to lift mask mandates at their latest meeting.
The school board heard from four candidates for the open district #2 seat on the board at their December 14 meeting.
Each candidate delivered eight minutes of prepared responses to several questions. The decision of who will fill the vacant seat will be made at the January board meeting.
Candidates for the board seat include MeriAnnell Barton, Kari Bake, Kyle Hosler, and Lynette Johnson. Their responses are available on the San Juan School District Youtube page.
Members of the board also spent over a half-hour to discuss a petition from Whitehorse High School students to end mask mandates at their school.
The petition was presented to members of the school board at the November meeting and was signed by 163 students at Whitehorse High. This represents approximately 55 percent of the 299 students at the school.
Superintendent Ron Nielson explained that throughout the pandemic, the district followed health guidelines from the State of Utah and Navajo Nation.
Nielson noted that Buu Nygren, president-elect of the Navajo Nation, campaigned to open up the Navajo Nation following the pandemic, although what that will actually look like in is not yet known. 
After a discussion with Whitehorse principal Kim Schaffer, District Representative Lucille Cody and other members of the board and staff, Nielson recommended that the school board not lift the mask mandate at the December meeting, but to advocate for Whitehorse high students to the Navajo Nation.
“The students need to see that something resulted in their voice being spoken,” said Nielson. “We will send a formal letter requesting the new president revisit this decision. We will communicate our frustrations, our concerns, and relay the students’ voice up to the Navajo Nation.”
The school board also finalized the 2023-24 academic calendar. In a staff survey, more than 50 percent preferred an option with two teacher work days to start the year and a teacher work day before the start of each quarter.

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