SHERIDAN, Ark. – After hours of heated debate, the Sheridan School District board of education has decided to postpone any decision regarding a school-wide mask mandate for three weeks.
The decision came after parents, community members, and healthcare workers took to the podium in support and opposition of a mask mandate in a heated and often chaotic public meeting.
Board members had decided to revisit a mask and face-covering requirement after the district in less than two weeks saw more than 400 quarantined students and nearly 60 active COVID cases.
Parents in support of the mandate said it would better protect students and limit the number of quarantines facing the school.
One mom, also an in-patient pharmacist at UAMS, explained how the virus should be taken seriously, and that even if the carrier doesn’t get sick, it can easily be transferred to others.
But those in opposition voiced their frustration, arguing that the school board has no authority to mandate face coverings and that masks should be up to parents and students.
At times, the meeting got chaotic. On multiple occasions, attendees would interrupt speakers, ask them questions, and voice their opposition to things that had been said.
At one point, a doctor got up to the podium and admitted that he had lied on the COVID questionnaire given to every attendee upon entry, saying that he had not been exposed to a COVID case, even though he had.
The statement frustrated board members, who voiced their worry over the blatant disregard for precautions, while the crowd loudly shouted their support and disbelief.
Sheriff’s deputies threatened to remove a number of attendees who became unruly during the public comment section, even going so far as to throw one man out who continue to interrupt.
Nearly 3 hours after the start of the meeting, the school board ultimately decided that they needed more time to weigh the differences between guidelines, mandates, and laws, and then make a decision in three weeks on September 20th.
That special meeting will also be combined with the board’s normal agenda meeting, and according to one member, will operate similarly to this meeting with a board-wide vote.