Among the unhappiness expressed last week at a rowdy Cabot School Board meeting abut a proposal to impose a mask rule was an assertion that school districts not only couldn’t require masks, they couldn’t require quarantines of people exposed to the virus.

(I don’t know about you, but a parent defending the right of a potentially sick kid to go to school to sneeze on others is a measure of how crazy this all has become.)

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Education Secretary Johnny Key has responded to this widely circulating assertion in a memo to school administrators. He wrote:

Attached is a memo from Arkansas Department of Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero regarding the authority of the Arkansas Department of Health, as well as the duties and responsibilities of school nurses and school leaders, regarding the implementation of quarantine and isolation measures for the control of infectious diseases in the state of Arkansas.

It is the position of the Arkansas Department of Education that school districts, under the direction of their respective superintendents and boards of directors, are obliged to adhere to these duties and responsibilities. Ark. Code Ann. § 6-15-202(f) and the Standards for Accreditation of Arkansas Public School Districts require that the superintendent of each school district file a written statement of assurance with the ADE Division of Elementary and Secondary Education as evidence that the school district for which the superintendent is responsible has complied with all statutory requirements.  In addition to the responsibilities of the superintendent, Ark. Code Ann. § 6-13-620(3) establishes that the board of directors of each school district is by law required to “adhere to state and federal laws governing public schools”.

Please use this as a resource to address any questions you may receive from board members, employees, or members of your school community.  I trust that Dr. Romero’s memo will provide much-needed clarity as we continue to work together to have a successful school year while mitigating the spread of Covid-19.