EL DORADO, Ark. (KTVE/KARD) 8/10/21 — As Arkansas schools prepare to return to the classroom, the mask issue is still a concern for parents.
“I think the schools should mandate masks in the schools because they’re all together,” Jennifer Johnson said.
Johnson has three kids in the Crossett School District only one who meets the age requirements to get vaccinated.
Johnson says her biggest concern for her kids and others is having something happen like what’s already been seen across other districts in the state.
The Marion School District started back school on July 26 and was bound to the Act 1002 which prohibited schools from requiring face coverings.
In the one week of being back in the classroom, with no mask requirements, there had been at least 66 students and 12 employees who tested positive for the virus. In addition 1,063 kids were were sent home to quarantine.
“If we all wear masks we can maybe prevent these quarantines and a lot of sick kids,” Johnson said.
The Crossett School District isn’t providing a virtual option to K-6th grade students. This is a concern for Johnson as this group isn’t eligible to get vaccinated.
“For the students who want to remain the district, which we do, they should mandate the wearing of masks.” she said.
Her daughter will attend the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Scientists and the Arts this school year.
That school has yet to decide if masks will be required but the chief administrator at ASMSA, Corey Alderdice, says the board will meet next week to discuss further guidance.
He anticipates students and staff will wear masks this school year.
“Masks are simple, safe and effective strategies helping students remain in classrooms,” Alderdice said. “At the end of the day it’s how keep each other safe and the way keep a shared responsibility each other.”
Johnson, a stay at home mom, says she doesn’t want to take her kids out of the district nor does she want to have them homeschooled though she has the capability to leave her kids home. Other parents don’t.
“I would be more available to do that but for those parents that work, if they choose not to require masks when those kids are required to quarantine, what will they do with them then,” she said.
According to the Arkansas Department of Education individuals exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 will not need to be quarantined if they have no symptoms and both the infected and exposed individual consistently and correctly were wearing a mask.
Individuals who are fully vaccinated will not have to quarantine. See chart below:
Today, UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson sounded off on Twitter about his thoughts on the upcoming school year and what districts should considered when making the decisions on masks in school.
“Given the rampant spread of the debilitating Delta Variant of COVID-19 in our state, no school system in Arkansas should be open for class without universal masking, social distancing, and maximal vaccination of all teachers, staff, & eligible children,” Dr. Patterson said.
“Many school systems will shut down. Our communities will suffer from increased spread of the virus. Our health care system will rupture in places. It will take so long to recover. Let’s not do it that way. Let’s do it the right way.
Cam Patterson on Twitter: “As the parent of school-aged kids in Arkansas, I can attest to how debilitating online learning & the interruption of routine that school shutdowns have been on children in our state. Our kids should be in school. (1)” / Twitter
For Jeremy Langston, whose teen daughter is a student in the El Dorado School District, masking is a safety concern for him as well but for a different reason.
In addition to his belief that masks are a barrier to human connection, Langston believes it brings on other issues as well.
“There’s a certain amount of psychological anxiety around wearing the masks,” he said.
Langston believes a happy medium would be for the kids to social distance inside the schools though he’s strongly adamant about parents having the freedom to make their own choice pertaining to their child.
“Allow them to live a full life without the confines that come with a mask and have that freedom,” he said. “I just feel like it violates our right as human beings to make choices. It’s my daughter. It’s her life.”
The Hamburg School District will not require masks. In a meeting Monday night, there was a tie vote among board members which resulted in the motion to require masks to fail. Several applauded the district in a Facebook post writing “Way to go Hamburg.”
Here are the masking plans for districts across the area:
- Magnolia School District will require masks for all students, staff, visitors as long as covid positivity rate is ABOVE 8%. Currently, it’s at 10.7%. Expect to start off the year wearing masks (Above 8%-Masks required Below 8%-Masks Optional)
- Hamburg School District will not be requiring masks (3-3 board vote, did not pass). The district will continue to monitor covid cases. If it continues to rise, it will be reconsidered.
- The Strong-Huttig School Board voted to reinstate its indoor mask policy, masks not required outside of the building
- The El Dorado School Board will meet for a special meeting on Wednesday at Noon (The district is compiling surveys from parents/staff for the board to review.)
- The Crossett School Board hasn’t adopted a policy
- Camden Fairview School District will require masks for students/staff regardless of vaccination status. Masks are not required outside of the school building, according to Superintendent Johnny Embry
- Smackover-Norphlet School District will start off the school year “strongly encouraging” masks but will continue to monitor covid situation
- Parkers Chapel and Junction City School Districts will meet Tuesday night