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Mask debate continues as students return to Fayetteville classrooms masked-up

School has started across Arkansas and the mask debate continues on, with mixed reactions from parents.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The first day of school is all wrapped up for kids across Arkansas after school leaders spent months preparing for the first day.

Parents and students were elated to be back in the classroom today, but the mask mandate debate still rings on.

“It's a fluid situation course, we're hoping that the mass mandate can stay in place for as long as possible for the semester because we know based on last year, it works," said Fayetteville Schools Public Information Officer Alan Wilbourn. "We were able to get through the entire school year without one school having to pivot or close due to COVID and the mask played a huge part in that."

Even though Fayetteville schools moved to require masks last week, there are parents who are still against it.

“My son hasn't worn a mask the entire pandemic, so having to tell him that he has to now wear one in order to get an education was frustrating," said second-grade parent Brittany Pirtle. "I mean he understood he was like whatever I want to make friends but that's the price we have to pay for him to make friends right now in this pandemic so that's kind of where we're at, is frustrating for me, but I mean a seven-year-old doesn't understand so he doesn't care really.”

For other parents, it was less about the masks and more about cherishing the big day.

“First-year big day, big day. He walked in like a champ and the rest was history,"  Samantha and TJ Mohler said about their kindergartener's first day.  "He literally said mom can I go inside now. We were taking too many pictures."

But while cherishing the moment,  some parents were confident that their teachers will protect them.

I really thought about it if I'm being honest. I just trust that the teachers are going to make sure that he's being safe and that he's wearing the masks like he's supposed to and because I know that they have his best interest, Morgan Engstrom said about her pre-K student’s first day. "I know that his teacher has a four-year-old as well and so she's very first hand practiced on how to get your four-year-old to adhere to, you know guidelines like that because it's not just for him it's for the other kids and other parents."

The Mohler’s added that they trust their sun to protect others in the classroom as he expects them to protect him.

The Fayetteville School District asked that parents remain outside the school building this year in addition to requiring masks for all students and staff.

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