FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Families across Northwest Arkansas are getting ready for the return to school; however, this year, parents face more challenging choices than what school supplies to put in their children’s backpacks.
“School is getting ready to start back up in two and a half, three weeks, and here we are with astronomical numbers, and they won’t even allow them to have mask mandates in school,” said Suedee Hall-Elkins, a local school mom.
Hall-Elkins’ son is heading off to Kindergarten for the first time. She said she is extremely concerned about kids potentially not being required to wear masks in the classroom, so they’re exploring all their options.
“I’m terrified, to be perfectly honest. My husband and I have even talked about sending him to a smaller private school and paying out of pocket for a safer space with fewer kids and requirements for masks,” said Hall-Elkins.
According to St. Joseph Catholic School, Hall-Elkins isn’t the only one thinking about private school.
“We have had some inquiries from families who like our mask mandate and policies. We do have some waitlists, but it’s something we would be open to,” said assistant principal for St. Joseph Mark Wilburn.
However, not every parent concerned for their kids’ health will have the resources to send their children to private schools. To learn how the state plans to make sure every student is protected I connected with the Arkansas Department of Education.
“We can not mandate masks, but we are highly encouraging people to wear the masks,” said Kimberly Mundell with the ADE. “Masks at this point are an option, and if a parent wants to send their child to school with a mask that is their choice.”
The Arkansas Department of Education says in addition to the safety precautions, there will also be remote learning options for 2021 – 2022. Out of almost 300 districts in Arkansas, 128 have already received approval for remote learning plans, and the ADE encourages anyone interested in learning more to reach out to their local district.