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Newport Schools to Ban Smoking

There will be no smoking in any Newport school, or in the bus garage, if the Board of Education passes a policy to that effect.
In a special meeting Wednesday night the agenda listed a first reading of three policies specifying a ban on tobacco for schools, for any groups renting the use of the school-owned grounds, and for the bus garage. Discussion was held among the school board members, and the new member, Matthew Scott, asked if e-cigarettes were included. Superintendent Kelly Middleton admitted that he didn't know, so the first reading of all three policies was put off until the regular meeting of the board on January 28.
"We have had some employees ask us about this," Middleton said. "It is time we stepped up and said, no smoking. We need to do this. It is the right thing to do."
Middleton said the issue has been discussed before, but when he received a strongly worded letter from Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday in conjunction with Governor Steve Beshear's office, Middleton wanted to do something about it. In the letter, the idea of a 100-percent tobacco-free policy prohibits tobacco use by staff, students and visitors for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, inside board owned vehicles or buildings, on school owned property and on school sponsored student trips and activities.
The letter asked if Newport was doing all it could to protect youth against the number one cause of preventable death in Kentucky and the United States. It also said that 35 of the state's 173 school districts have passed the 100 percent tobacco free policy and listed the link to see which districts are on board with the policy is
In Northern Kentucky, those districts include Beechwood Independent and Dayton Independent. 
"I don't know if the board will pass the policy," Middleton admitted. "We have smoking in designated places right now. We had a couple little wooden fences out front where people would smoke, but we took those down. When we read the policies, I will recommend that we make it effective for next school year. That will give everyone the summer to get used to it."
To start the meeting, two newly elected members, Ramona Malone, and Matthew Scott were sworn in by Brandon Voelker. Then the board voted on who would be chair, vice chair, treasurer and secretary. Ramona Malone retained her position as chair, Dr. Julie Smith­-Morrow will continue as vice chair, Tete Turner, Jr., will stay on as treasurer, and Kim Klosterman will still serve as secretary.
Due to leakage problems at the Welcome Center, where the board offices are located, GOP Limited Structural Engineers, a company in downtown Cincinnati, was brought in to give a report on the safety of the building. The company said the building was safe, but proposed a 3 stage repair plan, stage one being immediate repairs, stage two being repairs made six months to a year later, and stage three being longer term repairs, like the entire brick building being tuck pointed.
Tete Turner recommended the board adopt the plan and that emergency status be given to the stage one repairs in order to move the repairs along faster to avoid more water damage.
The board approved the recommendations.
Story & photo by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor