SPRINGDALE -- The School Board on Tuesday unanimously approved changes to the district's face mask policy.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson's statewide mask mandate expired March 31, and Springdale no longer has a mask requirement in effect to prevent the spread of the covid-19 virus.
Masks will continue to be worn indoors and on buses but won't be required for outdoor activities, according to the board. Indoor social distancing requirements have also been removed.
The revised policy will expire May 28, according to the board.
Michelle Cook, board president, said the board attempted to make a decision in the best interest of the district's more than 23,000 students.
"We have to respect everyone who comes to our schools, " Cook said. "We as a board need to see our population as a whole."
Three community members made comments against wearing masks at the meeting, raising concerns about their effectiveness, contributing to fear, communication difficulties and psychological challenges.
"I'm pretty shocked that we only had one-sided comments," said Clinton Bell, board member.
The board likewise voted 7-0 in support of adjusting covid-19 guidelines for band and choir classes.
Daily director temperature checks, student health surveys, air exchange requirements and the wearing of slit masks by instrumental students have been discontinued, according to supporting documents.
The indoor social distancing requirement has been changed from 6 feet to 3 feet, and reasonable social distancing and sanitation procedures will continue to be used for large events, according to supporting documents. Bell coverings for instruments, instrument water swabbing and indoor face masks for choral students will remain in effect.
In other news, the board voted 7-0 to accept property bids from Philip Taldo of One Springdale of $375,760 for 13.42 acres on the corner of Dodd and Old Wire roads and $126,000 for 4.50 acres east, west and south of 1575 Bitter Lane.
The board originally approved a $455,000 bid from Casey Kleinhenz of Leisure Homes for the Dodd and Old Wire roads property in February, said Kelly Hayes, assistant superintendent.
Kleinhenz rescinded the bid, Hayes said, making Taldo's the next highest bid for the property.
Taldo offered to purchase the Bitter Lane property after the district failed to receive any offers for it during two previous sales attempts, he said.
The board likewise voted 7-0 to approve entering into a 20-year solar power service and lease with Today's Power of North Little Rock to provide solar energy for the district.
Today's Power will install, maintain, own and operate a 22-acre solar power generating system on land the district owns adjacent to Sonora Middle School, said Michael Henderson, Today's Power president. The district will in turn purchase power for 0.0550 cents per kilowatt-hour, he said.
The total cost of the project will be more than $3.2 million, he said, at no upfront cost to the district.
The Sonora Solar Facility will save the district about $100,000 annually and about $2.3 million over 25 years, Henderson said.
The project is scheduled to be complete in June 2022, Hayes said.
Administrators also introduced plans for district summer school programs to the board.
A program emphasizing reading for first- and second-graders will be offered from 9 to 11:30 a.m. on Monday through Friday from June 7 through July 1 at Jones and Westwood elementary schools, said Melissa Fink, Curriculum, Instruction and Innovation assistant superintendent for pre-K to seventh grade.
"It is targeting the bottom 300 upcoming first- and second-graders in reading," she said.
A Read, Enjoy and Discover: Full STREAM Ahead camp will also be featured from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from July 5 through Aug. 6 at several district schools, Fink said.
The program is designed for students in grades K-5 who need support in reading as well, she said.
A middle school reading program will be offered from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday at Sonora and Hellstern middle schools for students in sixth and seventh grade, Fink said.
Students in grades 8-12 will attend more traditional summer school from June 3-24, said Shannon Tisher, Curriculum, Instruction and Innovation assistant superintendent for grades 8-12.
Summer school for students in grades 8-9 will be at Central Junior High, Tisher said. Grades 10-12 will have classes at Springdale High, and online students will attend classes at Tyson School of Innovation, she said.
Class for grades 8-12 will be held Monday through Friday in two sessions from 8:30 a.m. to noon and from 12:30 to 4 p.m., Tisher said. Students may attend one or both sessions, she said.
The following schools are partnered on the Read, Enjoy and Discover: Full STREAM ahead camp from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from July 5 through Aug. 6:
• George* and Jones
• Monitor* and Bayyari
• Harp* and Knapp
• Turnbow* and Sonora
• Hunt* and Smith
• Young* and Shaw
• Elmdale* and Westwood
• Tyson* and Walker
*Notes the school where summer school classes will be held for partnered schools.
Source: Springdale Public Schools