ES school board votes to suspend mask mandate
The Eureka Springs School Board voted Monday night to suspend its mask mandate, a policy reinstated at the board’s Aug. 9 meeting with the understanding that the issue would be revisited at each subsequent meeting.
Superintendent Bryan Pruitt said the district hasn’t had any COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks, and only three students were quarantined after a close family member tested positive for the virus. The district is the last in Carroll County to suspend the mask mandate, and Pruitt said the decision didn’t come without debate.
“Our board is very concerned about the safety of kids and they want the best for all the kids,” Pruitt said. “It was a tough decision and there was a lot of discussion, but in the end, we chose to stop the mask mandate for a while and see how it goes.”
The board will revisit the issue at every meeting until the pandemic is no longer a concern, Pruitt said. He said the board would call an emergency meeting if COVID-19 cases increase to address reinstating the mask mandate.
“We may have to bring them back if it goes up again, but hopefully not … fingers crossed,” Pruitt said.
“Everybody was tired and they needed a break and they need the opportunity to see if we can still function without a mask.”
Even with the mandate suspended, Pruitt said, some teachers and students are still wearing masks.
“That’s OK. It’s a personal choice and decision,” Pruitt said.
In addition to the mandate being suspended, Pruitt said, the partitions between desks will be removed. That allows students to see one another and their teacher much better, Pruitt said.
“We’ve had all these partitions in the classrooms and kids couldn’t see above them or around them,” Pruitt said.
Also at the meeting, the board voted to give a $1,000 bonus to all staff members with a contract who have worked 100 hours between July 1 and Nov. 1. Pruitt said the bonus will be deposited at the end of the week. It’s a joy to reward everyone for their hard work, Pruitt said.
“I feel like our staff really earned that. It’s well-deserved. They’ve been real troopers,” Pruitt said. “They’ve done anything we asked as far as keeping our school safe — the cleanliness, the sanitation and teaching with a mask on, which is extremely difficult.”
Pruitt added: “The bonus is a great thing and I’m glad the board gave that to them. We’re very blessed and it’s a great way to tell the staff, ‘Thank you,’ and that they’re appreciated.”
The board also approved a resolution establishing two at-large and five zoned positions for the school board. Pruitt said the rezoning was necessary because the district’s general population includes more than 10 percent minority groups. Jayme Wildeman and Gayla Wolfinbarger hold the two at-large positions, and the remaining five positions are: Zone 1, Joe Hill; Zone 2, Al Larson; Zone 3, Chris McClung; Zone 4, Jason Morris and Zone 5, Candace Spaulding.
In other business, the board approved the transfer of one student from Berryville, one from Huntsville and one student out to Berryville. The board also agreed to hire Diane Bruns as a paraprofessional and Duane Cosgrove as a custodian.
The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 13, in the middle school cafeteria.