Covington, Northridge game canceled

COVINGTON — Following recommendations from coaches and the team’s medical trainer, Superintendent Covington High School’s varsity football game against Northridge that was scheduled for Friday, Sept. 23, was canceled due to injuries preventing the school from safely fielding a team. Superintendent Dr. John Hoelzle made the announcement during the Covington Board of Education meeting Wednesday evening.

“I decided with the recommendations that we can’t safely field the team this Friday night,” Hoelzle said. “It’s purely safety reasons.”

“Some of those kids have injuries that aren’t ready to go this Friday,” Hoelzle said. “I’m hoping that they are cleared to be able to play in the following weeks. Some of them are concussion issues; you don’t want to rush that.”

The district sent a letter to Northridge schools explaining the situation.

“Other districts have had that happen,” Hoelzle said. “There is a statement on the district’s website, with our letter to Northridge.”

“I hate cancelling the game,” Hoelzle said. “It also affects our band, our cheerleaders, our fans and our community, and all of those same people at Northridge as well; it affects two communities, but I stand behind the safety of our players and the safety of our team beyond any of those other extenuating circumstances.”

In other business, board members also approved a $22,751.03 contract with IMS Technology and Security for the installation of new HALO sensors in restrooms and locker rooms.

“Basically, they’re vape-detectors,” Hoelzle said, “but they also detect other things like loud bangs, aggression, and all kinds of other things. We’re installing them in the restrooms and locker rooms.”

If they are set off for any reason, the sensors send a time-stamped notification directly to the school principal. “It’s very specific, so you can find who exited the room,” High School principal Bridgit Kerber said.

“Hopefully this helps with discouraging, and hopefully it will help improve our student wellness,” Hoelzle said.

Board members also voted to accept the resignation of educational aides Tonja Travers and Leah Wilburn, and junior high 8th GBK coach Dan Cain. Board members then approved a contract for Andrew Johnson to serve as High School Varsity Baseball Coach for the 2022-2023 school year. Board member Jim Rench voted against Johnson’s contract; board members Lee Harmon, Mark Miller, Steven Blei and Kerry Murphy voted for the contract.

“We’ve had discussions on this before,” Rench said. “The baseball program has not grown under Andy Johnson. There’s been, in my opinion, a great deal of disrespect shown to senior players especially at Day-Air ballpark this year.”

“Two seasons ago, senior night was ridiculous,” he said. “Nothing was done. I just don’t see the program growing under coach Johnson, so that’s a “no” from me.”

The board went on to approve a resolution that will allow the district to hire substitutes with only a high school diploma if needed.

“The state law used to be that you had to have a bachelor’s degree to get a substitute teaching license,” Dr. Hoelzle said. “Because of the nationwide educator shortage, they have lessened the requirements. Basically, if you have a high school diploma and you can pass the background check, we can employ you.”

“I’m not big on lessening standards, but I also want to have this in place in case we do get into a shortage where we can’t find substitute teachers,” he said. “If we find a good person who we believe can handle a classroom, I don’t want the bachelor’s degree rule in our policy to hamstring us.”

Board members also heard updates on the district’s new LifeWise Academy program, and the high school’s new Instagram page. “We’ve started an Instagram account that’s been widely followed,” Kerber said. “It’s been overwhelming to have that big of a response from kids when we’re posting the good news that’s happening. It’s not all just the exciting stuff, it’s the regular stuff too; classwork and study halls, and things that we’re doing during a regular school day.”

“We started our LifeWise program; Monday was our first trip there,” K-6 principal Josh Long said. “The kids seemed to really enjoy that first day,” he said. “We love the program. The folks who are in charge of that are super-enthusiastic.”

“It was well organized, we’re just going to tweak it as it goes and figure things out,” he said of the release-time religious education program. “We have 82 kids who are going over there.”

For now, the program is only open to first through fifth-graders. “We’re going to just focus on those grades right now,” Long said.

The board also heard an update on the district’s collection of student fees. “Currently, we’re at 61.7% collected for this year’s assessed fees,” Treasurer Carmen Siefring said. “I think it’s better than in the past, but still not where we want it to be.”

“From here, our next effort will probably be to include invoices when report cards go out,” Siefring said. “We’ll really try to push for payment during parent/teacher conferences in November. After that, we’ll go with secretary phone calls to try to get that number down.”

Parents can pay student fees online using credit or debit cards.

“It will reduce the load when they turn into seniors,” Siefring said. “We’re also tossing around possibly making students ineligible for overnight field trips, if their student fees are not paid.”

Board members adjourned their meeting to go into an executive session for the discussion of pending legal matters. The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be held in the K-8 building media center at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

The writer is a regular contributor to Miami Valley Today.