Ray Porter at Tallapoosa County School Board Meeting

Superintendent Ray Porter addresses the Tallapoosa County School Board during their Annual Board Meeting at the Tallapoosa Board of Education in Dadeville, Alabama, on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. [Jake Arthur/ Tallapoosa Publishers

Students and staff in Tallapoosa County schools will no longer be required to wear masks on school grounds.

The Tallapoosa County Board of Education voted in their Annual Board Meeting Wednesday to update their mask policy to make wearing a mask optional at county schools.

Superintendent Ray Porter read the updated mask policy aloud during the meeting.

“Tallapoosa County has reached the moderate or yellow level as designated by the ADPH [Alabama Department of Public Health]. Masks will now become optional in the Tallapoosa County School District. Facial coverings will remain mandatory for passengers and drivers on school buses. The ADPH has interpreted the federal order requirement on all forms of public transportation to include school buses. This requirement supersedes the facial covering policy of the school. The Tallapoosa County Board reserves the right to reinstitute mandatory mask requirements should conditions warrant.”

With that, Porter recommended to the board that they approve the update. School board members Martin Johnson, Matilda Woodyard-Hamilton, Carla Talton and Linda Daniel voted in favor of the update. Michael Carter was absent.

The policy requiring that students, teachers, staff and visitors wear face coverings has been in place since schools returned for in-person instruction for the fall semester of 2020.

The policy was renewed by the school board in their meeting in September despite some opposition from a vocal minority.

“We were early to require masks and we were late to suspend masks, because the health and welfare of students is of paramount importance.” said Porter in an interview with The Outlook after the meeting.

The change in mask policy reflects changes in neighboring school districts. The Alexander City School District lifted their mask requirement on Oct. 10.

Despite the policy change, Porter isn’t ruling out bringing the former mask policy back if it is needed.

“If we have to reinstate masks at some point it will be numbers driven and not opinion driven, which was also the reason we [are making] masks optional,” said Porter. “We are at less than one percent either quarantined or positive for students in Tallapoosa County. If we stay under one percent we are okay justifying not wearing masks.”

In other business, the school board:

  • Approved payment of November bills.
  • Approved the financial report.
  • Approved the fiscal year 2022 financial statement.
  • Approved the banks used as official depositories.
  • Approved an addition to the existing athletic supplement list.
  • Increased the incentive for bus drivers who work nine weeks without missing more than one day from $200 to $250.
  • Increased the pay of substitutes.
  • Approved the building of digital signs for Dadeville Elementary, Dadeville High School and Horseshoe Bend High School.
  • Approved all submitted resignations, retirements, hirings, contracts and maternity leave.
  • Opened the session to the public, one person in attendance, Ross Kilpatrick, signed his name to the list to speak, thinking it was the sign in sheet. When asked to speak he thanked the board.
  • Approved an out of state/overnight trip for the Horseshoe Bend High School band director to attend the Midwest Band Clinic.
  • Approved forming of the LEA Textbook Committee.
  • Approved the updated language in the board policy “6.14.03, Tutoring For Pay.”
  • Discussed updates on various building project milestones and setbacks at each of the schools.

The next school board meeting will be held Dec. 13 at 5 p.m.

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