The Morehouse Parish School Board adopted a new mask policy earlier this month that allows parents to choose whether their child must wear a mask during school or not while still strongly recommending mask-use on campuses.

Last month, Gov.John Bel Edwards lifted Louisiana’s mask mandate in all settings except for K-12 schools. Under Edwards’ order, school boards across the state could choose their own mask policies except for on buses. Masks are still required on public transportation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and cannot be overturned by school boards.

During its regular meeting on Nov. 2, the School Board’s members were divided over what the new mask policy should entail.

Tab Wilkerson, District 3 School Board member, offered a motion to get rid of mask usage entirely. Karen Diel, District 1 School Board member, seconded Wilkerson’s motion.

Louis Melton, District 2 School Board member, and Adrin Williams, District 7 School Board member, expressed concerns about Wilkerson’s motion.

“Masks work,” Melton said.

School Board President Veronic Loche-Tappin suggested masks be made optional while strongly recommending mask use.

Wilkerson amended his motion to include Tappin’s suggestion.

Williams argued the mandate should stay in place to lessen confusion about having to wear masks on school buses but not on campus.

The School Board approved Wilkerson’s on a 6-1 vote. Williams cast the lone vote in opposition.

In other business, Chris Broussard, Bastrop High School principal, requested the School Board’s approval to use Elevate K12, an online program, to hire a virtual biology teacher.

Earlier this year, Bastrop High’s only biology teacher resigned, leaving the position empty. Broussard has yet to find a certified replacement and has been using a substitute teacher instead.

If approved, the teacher hired through Elevate K12 would be present through the SMART Board and Chromebooks in the classroom. The Elevate K12 teacher would also be certified in Louisiana.

The substitute teacher would remain in the room to help manage students and keep contact with parents.

“With learning being virtual last year, a lot of that learning curve is not there anymore,” Broussard said. “They’re used to using these platforms. They’re used to learning with these devices.”

Broussard’s request was approved unanimously.

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