BOE approves end of mask mandate

Published 12:23 pm Friday, October 22, 2021

Current mask order to end on Oct. 29

The Escambia County (Ala.) Schools Board of Education on Oct. 20 approved the allow the current mask mandate to expire at the end of this month.

District 6 Boardmember Sherry Digmon made the motion that the mandate in place to expire on Oct. 29.

The question before the board was the possible “approval to change the status from face mask required to face mask preferred for all Escambia County School students, grades first through 12, staff and visitors.”

The board previously approved a mandate requiring all students, staff and visitors be masked while on school campuses in the county. The mandate was put into place on Aug. 12 and was renewed in September by the board. Then, the mandate was extended through Oct. 29 with board members agreeing to revisit the mandate to consider current data concerning cases of COVID-19 in the system.

“We know what we voted on (then) has worked,” Boardmember Loumeek White said during the discussion. “Our kids are our number one priority. As a board, we vote on something, we need to stick with it. It’s only seven days.”

Some board members voiced their opinions about moving away from the mandate immediately.

“It’s students first,” said Boardmember Coleman Wallace. “I believe by shifting now, we can make it a little easier. Scores are down. Masking doesn’t help teachers teach or students learn. The parents and kids should be considered. We would miss a lot of flack on the (Oct.) 28th.”

Boardmember Danny Benjamin said he believes the mandate has made a difference among the students and staff in the county.

“Think of the children we’ve saved (with the mandate),” Benjamin said. “I believe with even just a few more days, we can save more.”

The vote was approved 4-3. Opposing voters were leaning toward an immediate change in the mandate.

The mandate will be allowed to expire on Oct. 29 with changes in place when students return to school on Nov. 1. At that time, students, staff and visitors will not be required to wear face coverings, with the system moving to a “masks preferred” statement for those who come to the campuses in the county.

As per an Alabama Department of Transportation mandate on masks, students and drivers will still be required to be masked while on school buses within the state.

In other business, the board made the following changes to personnel in the system:

Resignations: Tyler Reid, college student worker at Brewton Central Office effective Oct. 1; Scotty Benton, elementary teacher at Escambia County Middle School effective Sept. 27; Lillian Dean, special education instructional aide at Huxford Elementary effective Oct. 6; Katherine Hodges, six-hour lunchroom worker at Rachel Patterson Elementary effective Aug. 16; Taylor Pace, special education teacher at W.S. Neal Middle School effective Aug. 6; and Chassidy Nall, bus driver at Brewton bus shop effective Oct. 19.

Retirement: Debra Smith, teacher aide at Rachel Patterson Elementary, effective Oct. 1;

Employment: Andrea Godbolt, central operations clerk at Brewton Central office effective Nov. 1 replacing Linda Stevenson; Canon Borst, social students teacher at Escambia County High School effective Oct. 4 replacing Johnathan Kent; D’Atra Howard, elementary teacher at Escambia County Middle School effective Sept. 29 replacing Karie Richburg; Beverly VanHoosen, seven-hour lunchroom worker at Pollard-McCall Junior High School effective Oct. 11 replacing Alyssa Williams; Allison Nall, special education aide at W.S. Neal Middle School effective Oct. 29 replacing April Parker; Pamela Tomlinson, bus driver at Atmore Bus Shop effective Sept. 27 replacing Robert Spicer;

Employment Change: Deloris Johnson, pre-k program instructional aide at Rachel Patterson Elementary School to elementary teacher at Rachel Patterson Elementary School effective Sept. 21 replacing Carol Hughes; Brenda Samuel, seven-hour lunchroom worker at W.S. Neal High School to six-hour lunchroom worker at W.S. Neal Elementary School effective Nov. 1 replacing Joni Simpson;

Rehires: Quaunhntel Hill, custodian at Rachel Patterson Elementary School effective Sept. 27 replacing Charles Jackson.