With less than a week before the start of school, school boards and charter school systems around the state have begun to make decisions on how to respond to a Pulaski County judge temporarily blocking the state law that prohibits public mask mandates.
Governor Hutchinson, who convened the state legislature in a thoroughly unsuccessful attempt to amend the mask law, applauded the judge’s decision. Should Attorney General Leslie Rutledge appeal the ruling to the Arkansas Supreme Court, Hutchinson said he would retain separate counsel to argue against the law. But the governor also said he wouldn’t use his executive authority to impose mask requirements for some or all public school children.
So predictably, we’re seeing a patchwork of mask polices from school districts around the state. Every county in Arkansas is seeing high community spread, according to the CDC. So school boards not implementing mask requirements are basing their decisions on politics, not science or public health recommendations.
Tom Mars, the attorney who represented the parents in the lawsuit challenging the public mask ban, called out on Twitter school districts that say they’re waiting for the Arkansas Supreme Court to rule before making a mask decision. An appeal may not be filed until the court holds a full hearing, or it may not be filed at all, Mars points out.
At this point at least, neither the state Department of Education or the Department of Health are keeping track of mask policies.
Here’s our attempt. This post will be regularly updated. Send additions with sources to firstname.lastname@example.org with the headline SCHOOL MASKS.
UPDATED Aug. 12:
Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts
East End (Bigelow, aka Jason Rapert’s home turf)
El Dorado (home of Trent Garner)
Haas Hall (Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville)
Little Rock School District (the school board won’t formally approve the mandate until Thursday, but as it filed a lawsuit to block the mask ban law, I think it’s safe to call it.)
South Conway (Morrilton)
Trying to thread the needle
Watson Chapel (The school board gave the superintendent the authority to impose a mask requirement, but he’s said initially the district is setting an expectation that students wear masks.)
Springdale: All students, K-7, will be required to wear masks. For all staff and other students, masks are optional.
Benton: Masks are optional. Every classroom will have an air purifier.
Southside (Batesville area*)
*A previous version of this post mistakenly identified the Southside School District as in Fort Smith.