Board of Education Implements 30 Day Mask Mandate


   On Jan. 10, the Fort Smith School Board reinstated the mask policy for all campuses with a 4-2 vote.  The decision during the scheduled work session restored first semester COVID restrictions such as eliminating field trips and group meetings on campus.

   “I am okay with the 30 day masks mandate, as long as it keeps students in class. I think it is very important that students are actually present here at school, with access to their teachers to ensure that they have academic success. So, whatever it takes to keep you all in the building I am for it,” freshman assistant principal Rachael Foster said.

   The board allowed citizen participation because of the concerns regarding the board items related to COVID. President Susan McFerran allowed individuals to present pros and cons on the mask mandate. Parents and teachers voiced their opinions within a two minute time limit. Five people requested to speak. 

   “As I’m sure all of you all know, the cases in the state have exploded recently. Yes, this is a much more mild variant of the virus, but it is much more contagious and it is spreading much more quickly and it is much more contagious than the flu or other diseases. Science has shown us that mask wearing is an effective tool against the spread of the virus,” parent Leslie Higgins voiced her support of a mask mandate.

   Chief Financial Officer and Executive Council member, Charles Warren, presented the number of known COVID-19 infections for school districts from Dec. 27, 2021 to Jan. 3, 2022. Warren explained how the Arkansas Department of Health data shows that since the new variant of COVID arrived there has been a significant increase in the number of infections. He broke the information down by ten thousand residents to get a better look at the numbers. On Dec. 13, 2021, Fort Smith’s COVID-19 trends were in the yellow on severity with a rate of 26 per every 10,000 people, but as of Jan. 8, 2022, Fort Smith moved to purple with a rate of 125 per every 10,000 people.

   “I’m just speaking, I guess as a teacher, but also as a father and on mandates. I wanted to just express some concern in general over America, the way that this has been going on. So, I just want to start with honoring Dr. King. The prophet king was mandated to follow segregation but reminded the American people that the U.S. The Constitution and Bill of Rights applied to all Americans. He resisted segregation on those grounds, he stood for liberty. Today retired General Lloyd Austin along with the Biden Administration is mandating vaccines and which aren’t stopping COVID-19. General Austin is supporting a new form of segregation based on the vaccine,” parent Matthew Graham spoke against the mandate.

   Ten AMI days exist to pivot to virtual if needed, but if more days are needed, those days will be added to the end of the school calendar. 

   “Masks were largely unnecessary before Omicron due to low case numbers in school, but since Omicron hit mask-wearing could be considered a necessary evil. I don’t think anyone wants to wear masks, but if there is a chance they could lower the numbers then it is worth a try,” senior Emily Harris said. 

   The Board of Education implemented a 30 day mask mandate which can be canceled by the superintendent if Fort Smith School District drops to the orange 49 or below cases.