Catholic Diocese of Little Rock requiring masks in elementary schools, one Fayetteville Catholic school fully supports

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FAYETTEVILLE, AR (KNWA/FOX24) — The Catholic Diocese of Little Rock is requiring masks in all its elementary schools this upcoming school year. This is in contrast to Arkansas public schools, which can’t require masks according to a new law.

Arkansas schools will not be allowed to mandate masks in class

St. Joseph Catholic School in Fayetteville made a formal announcement on its Facebook page on Thursday saying it will be requiring masks this fall.

“We certainly hope and pray it will change at some point but we are going to start this year masked, students and teachers,” said Mark Wilburn, Assistant Principal at St. Joseph.

Wilburn said the numbers make the decision obvious for them. Since they have kids ranging from three years old up to 8th graders, he said they need to require masks.

“We saw our young people are resilient, they had fun with the masks and they don’t pick sides,” he said. “In a Catholic school, we wear uniforms. The masks became a way for our young people to show a bit of personality. They don’t complain about the masks and we as adults can probably watch our own kids and watch how they take it in stride, and the compassion and the love they show for one another understanding that masks do work.”

Wilburn said parents have been supportive of the mask mandate, which goes for teachers too, regardless of their vaccination status.

Potential parent-led lawsuit would challenge state ban on mask mandates

The superintendent of the Diocese’s schools has been in constant contact these past few months, and the conversation changed two weeks ago as case numbers went up.

“Our school mottos is ‘Love, Learn, Act’ and wearing a mask is a simple act that we can do to show our live for one another and shows that we are willing to learn more about what is happening now,” he said. “And the numbers have changed and more people are getting sick, so it’s a way for us to live our motto.”

St. Joseph has heard from several public school families since it made its announcement on Facebook, families who want to enroll their kids at St. Joseph just because of its mask policy. However, Wilburn said they do have a wait list for some grades.

This Diocese’s mask mandate policy does not include the high schools because all the kids in those grades are eligible for the vaccine.

St. Joseph Catholic School’s first day is August 16th.

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