Wearing masks on White Hall School District campuses is no longer mandatory.
The district board Tuesday voted to make masks optional for the 2021-22 school year. The decision comes more than two months after Gov. Asa Hutchinson lifted Arkansas' mask mandate and as covid-19 vaccines become more widely available for people 16 and older.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March updated guidelines for social distancing in classrooms to reflect that students should remain at least 3 feet apart where mask use is universal or at least 6 feet if transmission is high, but that came before Hutchinson loosened Arkansas' mask rules.
"We had quite a few people call us and give us their opinion," White Hall district Superintendent Doug Dorris said. "Some people want to wear them. Some people don't want to wear them. Come August, they won't be required to wear them anyway. We just want to give them options. They can wear them if they want."
District board members also moved to allow a full-time police officer to serve as a school resource officer on every campus, making it the first district in Arkansas to do so, Dorris said. That means five officers from the White Hall Police Department and one from the Redfield Police Department will provide security.
Among district personnel moves:Debbie Jones has been named assistant superintendent, effective July 1. Jones presently serves as district director of curriculum/federal programs.
Doug Brown has been hired as the district's director of finance and technology, effective July 1. Brown has served as an external contractor to handle finance and technology matters for the past two years.
Other classified hires include Sherry Caskey as Taylor Elementary physical education/duty aide, Lesley Hipp as Moody Elementary PE/special education interventionist, and Julie Bell as Gandy Elementary PE/duty aide. Joey Hobson has resigned as White Hall High School nurse, and Barbara King has resigned as district custodian.
Certified hires include Cherisa Baughman as White Hall Middle School English teacher for grades seven and eight; Dylan Bohler as middle school social studies teacher, seventh and eighth grade assistant football coach and assistant soccer coach; Andrea Jobe as speech pathologist; Susan Allbright as Hardin Elementary media specialist; and Samantha Martin as kindergarten-through-sixth grade teacher. Joan Sims is transferring from Hardin Elementary to White Hall High as media specialist, and Amanda Bahreni Hawkins is moving from sixth grade English teacher to Gandy Elementary media specialist.
Certified resignations include Josh Walker as middle school social studies teacher and coach, Karen Haney as Gandy media specialist, Meredith Wilkins as high school survey of business and EAST lab teacher, and Ryan Bridges as middle school math teacher and coach.
Michele Burchett and Dorothy Pollett have been awarded contract addenda for reading intervention.