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Local schools ponder whether to lift mask requirements for students

Gov. Asa Hutchinson will give a decision on lifting the state-wide mask mandate at the end of March. Some schools say they might stick with the masks anyway.

SPRINGDALE, Ark. — Leaders of local school districts are debating if students should continue wearing masks in class, even if Governor Asa Hutchinson lifts the mask mandate at the end of March

Springdale Schools say their students are good about wearing masks, and their COVID-19 numbers are lower than ever. So with only around nine weeks left in the school year, Springdale Schools say they might keep the facemask requirement if the mandate is lifted. 

Most schools 5NEWS spoke with say they have not made any formal decisions about whether they'll lift the mask mandate if that option becomes available, but conversations are happening. 

Fort Smith Schools are waiting on further guidance from Hutchinson before making any decisions. 

Rogers and Fayetteville Schools are still working out their plan before making an announcement.

On Tuesday (March 9), the reopening task force at Bentonville Schools decided they will recommend keeping masks in place to the school board, regardless of the state's decision. Bentonville Schools will make an official announcement on their facemask policy on March 16, when the school board meets to discuss the issue. 

Rick Schaffer with Springdale Schools says their students and staff worked hard all year to keep one another safe, and they are now around 20 COVID-19 cases within the district, which is a large improvement from when the school had 187 cases at the peak of the pandemic. 

“We are going to be cautious before we make this change or that change because once you get into a rhythm, it’s good to complete things with that rhythm, but again we’ve made no decisions on that yet," he said.

Alma Schools told 5NEWS if Hutchinson lifts the state mask mandate, the school will likely lift their requirements. 

“I think citizens and parents would justifiably say, 'well, why are you making a different decision than what the state says?'" David Woolly, Superintendent Alma School District, said. 

Springdale and Alma School leaders say all of their staff who wanted to receive the vaccine have been vaccinated, and they are hopeful to finish off the school year seeing fewer and fewer COVID-19 cases on campuses. 

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