Masks now are optional at White Oak ISD after the school board approved the change at Monday’s meeting.

Superintendent Brian Gray said all other COVID-19 safety and mitigation protocols will remain in place.

“We try to follow the science and CDC recommendations but, truth be told, we’ve had one positive student case in the last 10-and-a-half weeks,” Gray said. “We’re trying to give our kiddos, especially our seniors, a little bit of normalcy as they close out the year. They’ve worked really hard, and we just wanted to finish the year on a high note.”

The board also named Stephanie Bradley as the new principal at White Oak Primary School.

Bradley was named the interim principal in December after Claire Koonce retired. She was the assistant principal at the campus before being named interim principal.

According to a statement from Bradley, she is in her 16th year in education. She earned her principal certification from the University of Texas at Tyler has worked as an education specialist with Region 7 Education Service Center.

“White Oak has been my home for the past 10 years,” she said. “I love living in such a caring and close knit community with my husband, Bobby and my son, Blaine. I transitioned back to the classroom as a kindergarten teacher at White Oak Primary when my son started kindergarten. As soon as I started teaching at White Oak, I began to learn about and understand why it is such an amazing school.”

While teaching kindergarten, Bradley implemented a program called Conscious Discipline, a social-emotional learning program. She said she was then able to train other teachers in the program to use it across grade levels.

“Mrs. Claire Koonce was the ideal mentor for me,” Bradley said. “I could not have learned from any better. I am thankful for the time I had to work side-by-side with Mrs. Koonce. She taught me so much about leading a campus with a strong focus on instruction, collaboration and always doing what’s best for kids. ... I look forward to continuing what White Oak Primary is all about, believing in all kids, all the time.”

Gray also updated the board on an $80,000 agriculture barn construction project.

The school wanted to provide a place for students to house and raise their animals. Gray said it can be challenging for some of the kids to find space for their animals if they live inside the city limits.

He said the interior of the barn still needs to be completed.

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Kristen is the News-Journal's education reporter. A Longview native, she got a journalism degree and a graduate certificate at Texas Tech University. She covers a variety of issues, including school finance, board meetings and happenings at local schools.