Aug 16, 2021 - COVID

Where Northwest Arkansas' biggest school districts stand on masks

Illustration of a school crossing sign wearing a mask.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

A judge ordered a temporary injunction on Act 1002 — Arkansas' law that bans public entities from requiring masks — meaning the law cannot be enforced for now.

  • Yes, but: Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced Friday that she plans to fight the injunction.

What's happening: With only about a week between the decision and school starting, local school districts have been scrambling to decide what their policies should be.

The four largest NWA school districts' rules are:

  • Bentonville: Masks required for students ages 3 and up. The school board will revisit the issue at each regular monthly meeting until further notice. Staff and faculty will vote to decide whether they'll have a mask requirement.
  • Rogers: Masks required for students, faculty and staff for at least 30 days.
  • Springdale: Masks required for students in K–7; optional for grades 8–12, faculty and staff.
  • Fayetteville: Masks required for students in K–12 and faculty and staff.
  • Smaller NWA school districts are requiring masks with a notable exception — Siloam Springs.

What they're saying: Cam Patterson, chancellor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, wrote last week in a Twitter thread that schools should be closed unless everyone is masked and as many eligible people as possible are vaccinated.

  • "If we need to delay school opening, let's do that. Otherwise, some kids will die," he tweeted.

Threat level: Arkansas Children's Hospital and Children's Northwest had a total of 31 COVID-19 patients on Friday, an increase from 21 on Aug. 2, spokesperson Hilary DeMillo tells Axios.

  • The youngest patient hospitalized in NWA for COVID-19 is under 12, according to a statement from the hospitals.

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