Cheney Free Press -

By Scott Davis

Heated mask discussion at school board meeting


Last updated 9/16/2021 at 2:32pm

CHENEY – A conversation regarding contingency plans due to rising COVID-19 infection rates elicited an impassioned response from community members at the Sept. 9 School Board meeting, including an attendee who was asked to leave.

The angry parent – who had already spoken at-length during the public comment portion of the meeting – continued to shout throughout the event, despite continued requests to save his comments for a private conference, or for after the meeting.

In keeping with an established School Board policy that prohibits uncivil discussion, the man was asked to leave.

During the discussion, the district officials said a full-time nurse, as well as additional health aids for each building, have been added to combat rising virus rates. The extra staffing will allow for quicker contact tracing in the event of infection, and prompt response to student medical needs. Spokane Regional Health District has suggested universal masking, distancing and limiting gatherings as mitigation strategies to keep kids in school.

In addition, Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered all school volunteers and employees – including coaches – to be vaccinated or face losing their position Oct. 18.

And an order requiring masks at outdoor sporting events that attract more than 500 people was implemented statewide on Monday, Sept. 13.

Driver shortage

Other issues discussed by the board pertained to a shortage in school bus drivers.

There are currently 47 bus routes and 44 drivers, officials said.

The district is relying on mechanics, directors and routers to drive, while prospective employees are interviewed.

“We’re really trying to get the number of routes to match the numbers of drivers we have because when it doesn’t, it’s all hands on deck,” Superintendent Rob Roettger said.

The School Board is also considering hiring a new director of safety and security to handle the duties of newly retired School Resource Officer Kelly Hembach, who has traditionally worked as an intermediary between the district and police.

“We feel like, on the West Plaines, there’s some need because of response time,” Roettger said. “If there’s an issue that we need to address at Westwood, we need the county sheriff to be there. And with some of the limitations they have, it becomes and issue.”

Future meetings are planned on the matter.

Scott Davis can be reached at

Author Bio

Scott Davis, Reporter

Scott Davis is the Cheney reporter at the Cheney Free Press.

Phone: 509-235-6184


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