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Gravette schools lift mask mandate



GRAVETTE, Ark. — School Board members voted at a special meeting April 12 to lift the mask mandate at all schools.

Masks will now be optional. The vote was 6-1, with Jay Oliphant casting the lone dissenting vote.

A brief discussion was held preceding the vote in which members considered three recommendations presented after compiling results of a district survey.

The survey showed a majority of parents and teachers favored removing the mask mandate. School principals present agreed, however, that it would be difficult to ask people to reinstate the mandate after deciding masks were no longer necessary.

Superintendent Maribel Childress said all other covid-19 protocol, cleaning and sanitizing, social distancing and tracking contacts with persons testing positive for covid will remain the same. A count of positive cases in each school will be released daily so parents can make an informed choice about whether to have their students wear masks.

In other business at the meeting, members voted to hire Vonciel Fordham as an evening custodian and transfer Kelly Hankins from middle school principal to district director of academic services to help students who are struggling to graduate on time with their classmates. Hankins’ salary will be paid from Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief money. This leaves an opening for the position of the middle school principal.

Board members also voted to contract with Apptegy to design and maintain a district website/mobile website app for the district for $11,000 a year. Farmington, Springdale and Greenland schools employ Apptegy to design their websites. Jay Oliphant said he has checked all of them and found Farmington’s site looked very good and seemed to be similar to what Gravette would want. Childress said Apptegy would take the process step-by-step and customize the site as desired.

Board members also heard the first reading of the policy updates. There were few changes from the 2020-2021 policies. One change dealt with the section on student dress and grooming. In regard to ripped or torn clothing, the new policy states that any holes in clothing being worn should be below the wearer’s fingertip length.

In the final item of business, board members agreed to act on Childress’ recommendation and not pursue NCA accreditation. Childress said the accreditation was once a prestigious assessment and much sought after by area schools.

However, it’s no longer so prestigious and the accreditation process is quite expensive.

Schools must request a site visit and pay $10,000 to $15,000 for the visit. Those attaining accreditation get a plaque in recognition and no other benefits.

She feels the cost far outweighs the benefits. Childress said the board members could change their minds and seek accreditation in the future if they so desire.