GRAVETTE -- A special meeting of the Gravette school board was held Thursday evening, August 12, to discuss safe opening for the school year.
Jay Oliphant, board president, presented some information about mandating masks and shared what other school districts in the area are doing. Twenty school patrons who attended gave comments, sharing their opinions on whether or not to require the wearing of masks.
Opinions were divided on whether masks were necessary or not. Some opposed a mask mandate and others were in favor of it, one parent suggesting that they be required at least until covid cases begin to decline, then re-evaluating. Another parent asked to have the choice and another reinforced the idea that it should be up to the parents to decide. An elementary school teacher talked about how difficult it was last year for teachers to do virtual instruction and said he is in favor of masks if it will mean no more virtual learning.
After the discussion, all the board members present thanked the patrons for coming and sharing their opinions. A motion was made by Tim Craig and seconded by Robyn Lovell to make masks optional for students and staff. Heather Finley noted that a mask optional policy is already currently in force so there was no need to revote on it. However, the motion to make masks optional was voted on and failed 2-4 with Lovell, Finley, Hope Duke and Tracy Moorman opposed. Lovell, Finley and Duke noted that they voted to oppose because the policy already exists.
Members moved into executive session at 7:58 p.m. for the purpose of discussing resignations and employment. After returning to open session at 8:19 p.m. they voted to accept the resignation of Jennifer Mahon as cafeteria manager at Glenn Duffy Elementary. They also voted to hire Rebecca Vickers in the child nutrition department, Tonia McEvans as cafeteria manager at Glenn Duffy Elementary, Mike Larson as middle school ISS supervisor, Lou Keen as middle school Title I aide, Cheryl Trapp as an instructional assistant (paraprofessional) for special education at Upper Elementary and Taylor McMillan as a special ed teacher at Upper Elementary. All votes were unanimous.
In other business, board members voted to approve a stipend of $1,284 for a wrestling assistant coach and to approve Superintendent Maribel Childress to work with the administrators in each elementary school to hire lunch duty aides at minimum wage and/or pay teachers to take on duty beyond 60 minutes a week.
Approval was given to the transfer of a 12-year-old student out of the district to Pea Ridge. Out of district transfers of a ninth-grade student to Decatur and a second-grade student to Gentry had already been approved at the Aug. 3 special board meeting.