Arkansas Dept. of Education updates back-to-school recommendations based on C.D.C. guidance


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Arkansas Dept. of Education updated its back-to-school recommendations to correspond with new C.D.C. guidance on masking for students. The move comes amid continued discussions throughout the state about masks amid rising hospitalizations and case numbers related to COVID-19.

“That change is simply about the mask and face covering recommendation for all students in the schools,” said Education Secretary Johnny Key. “It is a recommendation, certainly not a mask mandate.”

The C.D.C. on Aug. 4 updated its guidance, recommending that people resume masking regardless of their vaccination status. As a result, Key said the Dept. of Education followed by updating its own guidance.

“When teachers, staff, and students consistently and correctly wear a mask, they protect others as well as themselves. Consistent and correct mask use is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained,” the Dept. of Education quoted the C.D.C. as saying in its recommendations.

This month, most Arkansas schools return for classes at a time when the Delta variant continues to spike across the state. The Health Policy Board of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) publicly recommended Tuesday that schools consider requesting waivers from the Dept. of Education to delay the start of the school year, “to ensure the opportunity to appropriately consider available mitigation strategies, and the sufficiency of those strategies, as well as to increase the time for protection to develop among those recently vaccinated.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said he doesn’t support schools pushing back their start dates.

The Dept. of Education also included information about how school districts should approach mask mandates with the temporary injunction filed by a state judge against Act 1002.

On August 6, 2021, Judge Tim Fox issued a temporary restraining order that prohibits the enforcement of Act 1002 of 2021 pending continuing court proceedings. Under the order, there can be no enforcement action taken against any school district or charter school that adopts or implements a requirement to use masks/face coverings. It is recommended that districts and charter schools consult district legal counsel when considering the adoption or implementation of mask/face covering requirements and the applicability of current local policies.

“Arkansas Ready for Learning” Update

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