FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families put a statement on its overall concern for this most recent surge in cases, but also because of the imminent return to the classroom.
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families said it wants to make sure students of all ages are as safe as possible for the school year. So it is calling on lawmakers to reconsider recent bills believed to be making it harder to do so.
The legislation in question being Act 1002 and 977, which ban state and local governments from requiring masks or vaccinations.
“Depending on the way this pandemic goes, mandatory vaccinations may be the only option to keep kids safe. The whole point of this is not to get into a fistfight with one another; the point is to keep kids safe,” said Dr. Gary Wheeler, President of the board of directors for AACF.
Wheeler said rethinking these will be critical in protecting the kids.
“We know that if you don’t have a certain percentage of people in the classroom following the same guidelines, they don’t work very well,” said Dr. Wheeler.
The Arkansas Department of Education and Arkansas Department of Health also recently released their revised guidance for 2021 – 2022.
“We can not require masks, but we are highly encouraging districts and people to wear the masks. If a parent wants to send their child to school with a mask voluntarily, that is their choice,” said Kimberly Mundell with the ADE.
We reached out to the Governor’s office for a comment on recommendations made by the AACF; we have not heard back. But, Dr. Wheeler said it’s not all doom and gloom.
“We are seeing people take this more seriously than they did before. The number of people getting vaccinated is increasing in the last couple of weeks, so it’s hitting home more than it did before,” said Wheeler.