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Arkansas school mask mandates? What local leaders say students should do

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mask-wearing even if you are vaccinated.

SPRINGDALE, Ark. — New mask-wearing guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics has been released as kids head back to the classroom in less than a month.

“We really need to do everything that is permitted under the law, and right now, that largely calls on voluntary effort of parents, administrators, superintendents, and others to encourage mask-wearing,” Dr. Gary Wheeler said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics' new guidance recommends students, staff, and teachers over the age of 2 wear masks indoors even if they are fully vaccinated. They also recommend potentially requiring COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine proof.

Pediatrician Dr. Gary Wheeler is with the Arkansas chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He says mask-wearing is the sensible thing to do with the situation our state is in right now.

“If you wanted to keep your kids safe at school, you would make sure everyone around your child is vaccinated, but there is no way to guarantee that or validate that, so the easiest thing to do to keep everyone safe, particular at this time is to recommend universal masking,” he said.

A newly enacted state law makes it where school districts cannot force students or staff to wear masks, but that doesn’t mean they can’t encourage it. The Springdale School District says to keep everyone safe, they plan to continue their health and protocols from last school year with deep cleaning and hand sanitizer readily available.

“We would encourage the families in our community to listen to the experts, follow the advice of your doctors, follow the advice of what people are saying, and together we can help create a really good strong school year. It is a partnership, and we need to do this together,” Trent Jones with the Springdale School District said. 

The Arkansas Education Association executive director, Tracey-Ann Nelson, says they agree with everyone wearing masks and thinks we should all be encouraging others who can get vaccinated.

“I think everybody needs to do what it takes to mitigate it," she said. "So, if it’s wearing masks, let’s do it. We don’t need a law to tell us to do that. Let’s do what’s right for ourselves, for families, and for students." 

The CDC recommends students and teachers who aren’t fully vaccinated continue to wear masks but say fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks inside.

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