LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Arkansas Education Association is calling on state school districts to follow health expert guidance during the the COVID-19 surge, it announced in a Monday, Jan. 3 press release.

While it acknowledges in-person instruction is best for students, AEA says it must be done safely. Record numbers of cases are hitting the states, and AEA urges schools to follow health expert guidance to ensure the safety of students and faculty in their environments.

Circuit Judge Tim Fox’s ruling on Act 1002 as unconstitutional allows local school districts the authority to make decisions regarding masks and data shared by Dr. Jose Romero, Arkansas Secretary of Health, showed school districts where students and staff wore masks had 20% fewer cases of COVID-19 than schools with no mask requirements, according to the relese.

The release notes the Arkansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatricians is also calling on schools and child care facilities to take action, such as enforcing mask requirements.

“Vaccines are also an important tool to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in any of its forms, but that does not negate the need to continue health and safety protocols including masks and social distancing,” the AEA said.

“Districts cannot continue to ignore the rapidly changing learning and working conditions that must be addressed to maintain safe and healthy classrooms, buildings and school buses.”