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Local school boards make major decisions on masks and football

Posted on Thursday, March 25, 2021 at 2:22 pm

By Barry Dalton
bdalton@vandalialeader.com

The Community R-VI Board of Education voted 6-1 on Wednesday, March 17, and the Vandalia Board of Education voted unanimously on Thursday, March 18, to end the cooperative agreement experiment in football. 

This means that next year, the Trojans will field its own varsity and junior varsity football teams and the Indians will most likely play in a lower division during districts. Van-Far will still play the same teams during conference play.

This outcome is attractive to both administrations, said Van-Far Superintendent John Fortney.

“It is done amicably,” said Fortney. “We want to thank the Community R-VI District for supporting our football program. We both felt at this time it was time to take a break and stop that co-op, but at some point in the future the districts want to be open to that conversation.”

“In 2011, a mutual decision between the two districts…a football co-op was voted on by both boards,” said Community R-VI Superintendent Cheryl Mack. “This co-op has been reviewed every two to three years to decide if the co-op should remain in place. Again, by mutual agreement, the two districts have determined the co-op should be discontinued at this time.”

Van-Far also announced, after an executive session, that the current assistant coach of the Van-Far varsity football team will replace current coach John Kliewer, whose resignation becomes final at the end of this school year.

Joe Drebese has spent the last two years for Van-Far as a PE/Science teacher while also serving as the defensive coordinator for varsity football.

“My goal is to bring pride for the football team back into the community,” said Drebese in a prepared statement. “I’m going to do this by creating an active presence within the community consisting of public fundraisers which will also support local business simultaneously. I would also like to adopt a ‘big brother’ type of program in the near future as well.”

Community R-VI has not yet announced a head football coach. It typically votes for coaches during its April board meeting.

Both school districts also voted to end Gov. Mike Parson’s recommended mask mandate intended to keep more students in school during a COVID outbreak. By a 4-2 vote, Van-Far will end the mandate at the end of this school year before summer school starts, and Community R-VI voted 7-0 to end its mandate effective immediately.

“We have tracked the spread of the virus in our community throughout the pandemic,” Mack said. “In addition, we have continued to monitor the cases in our school buildings. We based our decision on the decrease and leveling off of positive numbers and the ability to spend more time outside and open windows.” 

In other business, the Van-Far School District also voted to make its transportation director a full-time job upon the retirement of Charles Stroker. The job description will include additional duties to transportation, depending on the successful applicant’s skill set, and will have a salary of $35-$45,000.