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 Original article can be found at Texarkana Gazette.

By Andrew Bell; August 18, 2020

The Texarkana, Arkansas, School District approved updated mask regulations, as well as the purchase of a bus with WiFi, in a regular meeting of the Board of Trustees on Tuesday night.

The bus will be purchased from National Bus Sales for $206,950 with funding coming from a Magnet grant.

The bus is meant to increase access for students by providing WiFi to those who do not have internet access. It is also going to be used for community events, such as home visits, off-campus parent/teacher conferences, registration and family and health resource fairs.

The Magnet Alumni, Recruitment and Marketing Office will coordinate the use of the bus.

The bus is not a taxable purchase because it will be used for academic purposes.

The board also approved the purchase of 1,500 youth-size, reusable masks from ARClothMasks at a rate of $2.34 per mask, for a total of $3,935. Funding will come from 2019-2020 CARES Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding.

"We would like to put some policies in place to make sure that parents know when it's expected, when the students are in line at the cafeteria or when they cannot socially distance," Superintendent Becky Kesler said. "We want to make sure that everyone is aware of when the students are expected to wear a mask, when they won't have to, when we're going to take mask breaks during the day — things like that."

The guidelines state that students and faculty must wear masks when social distancing is not possible and that they can take them off while eating, as long as physical distancing is in place.

Exceptions can be made for special cases involving medical conditions, disabilities or other factors.

Visits to district buildings will be limited to essential visitors only, and they will be expected to wear a mask. If they refuse to wear one, they will be asked to leave district property.

In other business, cultural competency training was approved for TASD educators, with services provided by Magnet Schools of America — National Institute for Magnet School Leadership.

The training will include a three-day Cultural Competency Series for Cohort II and Cultural Competencies Coaching for Cohort I to ensure that bias is not embedded in the system and daily practices of the district among administrators, faculty and staff.

The board also approved the purchase of 30 iPads, 30 cases and one charging cart for students that cost a total of $12,864 from Apple Inc. Funding is coming from the Magnet grant.

This is in addition to the $11,560 that will be spent on iPad cases, to accompany the 300 iPads approved at a July board meeting. This, along with $22,349 that will go towards cases for 500 Kajeet chromebooks, will be funded by the CARES Act ESSER funding.

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