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Students head back to the classroom without mask requirements

No large school districts in our area currently have mask requirements in places, but they are strongly encouraging them.

ARKANSAS, USA — With the rising number of COVID-19 cases, parents might be worried about sending their kids back to the classroom after winter break. 

Currently, there are no large school districts in our area that are requiring students and teachers to wear masks. Springdale School District students had their first day back Tuesday, Jan. 4. 

Trent Jones with Springdale Schools says they are strongly encouraging masks, but he reassures parents they are following all the same health and safety protocols they did last semester. 

“It’s really important for our children to be engaged in school," Jones said. "It’s important for our community. And in order to do that, we need to follow the best practices from a health and safety standpoint, and we need to make sure we are encouraging and respecting each other." 

Fayetteville Schools’ students don’t return to campus until Thursday, Jan. 6 and as of now the mask mandate ended at the end of last semester, but there is a trigger that would reinstate it. If the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement numbers show there are 30 cases per 10,000 in the city of Fayetteville over a 14-day period, the mask requirement goes back into place. 

Alan Wilbourn with the district says they didn’t have to close or pivot any schools in 2021. 

“We had our mask mandates in place, plus we were social distancing, washing hands, working on ventilation, all those kinds of things that we know have been proven to mitigate the virus and so we will rely on those again,” Wilbourn said. 

While other school districts could choose to require masks due to the Arkansas law being overturned, the Bentonville School District cannot because a Benton County Circuit Judge ruled, they cannot. Governor Asa Hutchinson says Bentonville Schools is a unique situation. 

“That’s on appeal. Hopefully, that can be resolved in favor of the school district soon because that certainly goes contrary to what Judge Fox found in holding the entire law unconstitutional,” Hutchinson said. 

Bentonville Schools’ parent, Alicia Briggs is a little nervous about sending her sixth-grader back to school Wednesday, Jan. 5. 

“I know a lot of people are letting their political egos get in the way of trusted science and my son is going to go to school with children who are unmasked and he’s special needs, he’s a little bit more at risk. His teachers are very good about keeping him safe,” Briggs said. 

Fort Smith Schools started back Tuesday and while they are not requiring masks, they are also strongly encouraging them. 

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