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The Buena Vista (BV) Board of Education met for their regular meeting on Monday, March 28. After an in-depth discussion with BV PEAKS (This stands for ‘Partners Engaged Around Kids’ Success’. See companion story for more about PEAKS), the board jumped into their agenda.

BV School District Lifting Mask Mandate

In her report, Superintendent Lisa Yates shared that the district will be lifting their targeted masking, though students who choose to continue to wear them will still be allowed to wear them.

“Of course, students or staff members can still wear a mask,” she said. “We need to be thinking about what will be allowable because it could be used as a tool for someone to do something unsafe.” She compared it to the hoodie question, as it “is a way for a student to hide,” for personal or unsafe reasons.

Yates also shared that there would be a ballot measure in November, which would retain some of the TABOR refunds with a percentage reserved for schools.

“It’s a repeat for voters,” she shared. “I know they’re trying to find answers on how we fund Colorado [education] at a higher level than we are…The band-aid fixes worry me, but I think we should look at this as it will be no tax increase.”

Board member Jessica Crites shared that she and board member Stacey Moss have a property meeting scheduled with Katy Welter and Rick Bieterman for Thursday, March 31, regarding the District Administrative Building and the McGinnis Gym.

Public Comment on Critical Race Theory

Pat Jahla, who attends meetings as the district’s monitor representative from Chaffee County Republicans, registered for public comment and shared that she had received a few calls in the past several weeks from people (whose children have apparently ‘aged out’ of the district or those who live out of the district) with concerns about critical race theory (CRT) and the 1619 Project being taught in the district.

“I hastened to inform them that they have their own district representative,” Jahla said. “I bounced this off [Buena Vista School Board Vice President] Brett [Mitchell] before we got started this evening, and he said, ‘Absolutely not.’ Is there any way that we can calm these folks down?

They’re coming to me instead of coming to their district representatives,” she added. “…Their kids are past going to school in district R-31, or they’re going to Darren Patterson [Christian Academy] … Is there some way I can reassure them that we are not participating in this?”

Yates said it would be best for those concerned to come to the board directly, and Jahla replied that since their kids have aged out of the district “they don’t feel comfortable with that.”

Later in the meeting (as the public comment period does not usually include responses from the board), Crites asked whether the Social Studies department could release some sort of statement, with board member Lynn Montoya suggesting they list the books they’re reading.

Yates said that the program evaluation is currently underway, as is Colorado’s standards review, emphasizing that the district will adhere to Colorado standards.

“The tricky part of this is CRT [critical race theory] has so many broad meanings to different people,” Yates said, pointing to a previous comment that CCHS was teaching CRT as they included a module on Black History Month. “I would certainly encourage anyone in the public to give feedback on the Colorado standards.”

The state standards are also available on the district’s website. Yates also added that the program evaluation update will be shared at the April 11 meeting, and that CRT in the district was discussed in a number of the Monday Minute Zoom meetings she hosts. 

“I would want to hear much more about the specific concerns from our community; if they really exist, because we haven’t had them,” she said. “I certainly would want to curtail what perceptions might be out there.”

Jahla speculated that someone may have “stirred the pot,” as the calls came all at once. Carle Linke had commented in a previous board meeting on concerns about CRT being taught in the district.

“Lisa’s very open to meetings,” board member Brett Mitchell said, “and if they need support, they can call me and I’ll go with them. It’s [a rumor] we don’t want out there, because it’s not happening.”

Buena Vista School District Property Naming Procedures

The board also discussed their procedures for naming the district’s buildings and properties, including the baseball field and the theater, and they moved to add the Naming of Properties to a future agenda. They agreed that discussing the district’s current process and the overall naming of buildings should be more than one discussion in a board meeting.

The board adjourned at around 8:40 p.m., with their next regular meeting scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on Monday, April 11. The meeting will be held at the District Administration Building, 117 North Court Street, in Buena Vista.