By MARK EVANS
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
In keeping with changes in federal guidance, Ste. Genevieve R-II students will no longer be required to wear face coverings on school busses.
The R-II Board of Education unanimously passed an update to its COVID-19 Reopening Plan at its March 15 meeting that removed the local mask mandate for busses.
The meeting also saw the board approve a decision to take its insurance business back to a former provider.
“The CDC had removed the federal mask mandate on school buses, so our reopening plan puts that into place,” Dr. Julie Flieg, superintendent of schools, noted, “and removes the mask mandate on buses.”
The Missouri High School Activities Association (MSHSAA), meanwhile, amended its COVID testing policy for extracurricular activities. It is is no longer requiring student athletes to have a formal medical screening prior to returning to sports participation following COVID infection. That was also changed in the Reopening Plan.
The board voted unanimously to adopt the updated plan.
INSURANCE RATES ARE DROPPING
On the insurance rates, there was also good news. The school district is part of the Mineral Area Health Consortium, a group of regional school districts who band together to get the best possible rates and coverage.
A year ago the consortium had opted to leave United Health Care (UHC) and go with Anthem. This time around, UHC made a concerted bid to get the group’s business back.
“We thought, going into our negotiations with Anthem, that we would basically roll over our rates and have a zero percent increase because our consortium was trending around 90 percent and Anthem each year was making about $3 million off of our membership,” Flieg explained. “So, we thought, going into our negotiations, that we would just be able to move on quickly.”
That, however, did not happen.
“Anthem actually came in with a 15 percent increase to our cost,” Flieg said. It was negotiated down to 6.6 percent, but the consortium members still “found that unacceptable,” in Flieg’s words.
Therefore the group put health, dental, vision and life insurance out for bid. UHC offered a rate that was actually less that it had been previously.
“They wanted our consortium back,” Flieg said. “We were with them two or three years ago and they wanted to pull us back. So we’re actually seeing a reduction in all our health plans.”
There was no change to the coverage provided and the R-II district will save about $180,000, Flieg said. The board voted unanimously to accept the plan, with board member Terry McDaniel abstaining.
• The 2022-2023 calendar was again amended. Flieg said that Easter had been entered for the wrong weekend on the 2023 calendar in the previously approved version. It actually falls on April 9, 2023, making April 6-10 Easter Break. School will dismiss early on April 5 at 1 p.m. Classes resume on April 11.