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Arkansas governor calls special session to address mask mandate ban in schools

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 5:32 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 30, 2021 at 5:33 PM CDT
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YELLVILLE, Ark. (KY3) - Arkansas schools might have the choice to implement masking policies for this coming school year.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday that he is calling a special session for lawmakers to review Act 1002. The act was initially passed back in April and says that no government funded entities, such as a school, within the state of Arkansas can require masks to be worn.

This has been a concerning issue for parents and schools alike, particularly with students under the age of 12 who do not have the option to receive a vaccine.

Currently, Arkansas schools cannot require students to wear masks. Although many are planning to start the year by recommending students wear them when social distancing cannot be enforced.

Once Act 1002 is changed, barring that it is, schools will then individually be able to decide if they want to require masks be worn or simply recommend them for students.

”If we don’t have to wear masks, I don’t see us doing that,” said Wes Henderson, Superintendent of Yellville-Summit. He says last year the district didn’t see a lot of transmission between students.

Yellville-Summit schools is not alone, other districts have spoken with KY3 and say they don’t anticipate a mask policy being put in place.

”I’d love to sit here and say we know exactly how it’s going to look on the first day,” said Henderson. “Whether we have to or not, we’re going to strongly encourage our kids to, we’re going to have masks available.”

But encouraging and requiring are two very different things. The special session could determine the ability to give that power to school boards and local authorities.

Henderson says masks are a concern for many, but Yellville-Summit is taking other precautions, like social distancing and bringing in sanitation teams prior to classes starting. While he doesn’t expect to require masks, he says the district will listen closely to local health officials.

”I’m an expert on kids and education, I’m not a health expert,” said Henderson. “We’re gonna do what the department of health and the department of education asks us to do. I will work with our school board and with our ready to learn committee. But what we want is healthy kids, healthy teachers, a healthy community.”

Similar schools like Mountain Home and Green Forest currently are recommending masks, but say they will continue to address the situation depending on the legislator and overall state of the community.

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