Two school districts have opposing viewpoints on school mask policy

Two school districts have opposing viewpoints on school mask policy

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - School districts are making decisions on if they will enforce or lift mask policies. The Jonesboro School District will still require face coverings, and the Mountain View School District says it’s optional.

Both school districts say they are doing what is in the best interest of students, staff, and parents but have different views of what that should look like inside schools.

“Schools are not a setting where it’s a choice. Schools are a setting where individuals are required to be here, so we know that if everyone is here that we need to protect everyone,” said Jonesboro Superintendent Dr. Kim Wilbanks.

Wilbanks adds that to not disrupt students, they believe that it’s best to keep the mask policy for the remainder of the school year.

She says she believes Gov. Asa Hutchinson made an informed decision to lift the mandate, but it never hurts to be cautious.

“Didn’t just base it on what he felt like. He had strong data that supports that. He also, at the end of his press conference, said, ‘I’ll still be wearing masks,’ and I thought that was a great message,” said Wilbanks. “That, even though the mask mandate has been lifted, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t continue to be responsible and wear a mask.”

Mountain View School District Superintendent Brent Howard says the choice should be left up to the individual.

“Looking around here today, it’s still about 50/50. Still have teachers and staff wearing them. Still have students wearing them; however, what we’re going to do is respect everyone’s wishes,” said Howard.

Howard says they will continue to social distance and adds he will still wear a mask at school but argues with the vaccine becoming more readily available, it’s time to loosen restrictions.

“Our teachers, the majority of them have had their vaccine, and I think that helps out on that end. It’s just a personal choice, how your board feels, and how safe you feel walking down a hallway with or without a mask,” said Howard.

Both school districts say they are taking it day-by-day and will continue to monitor numbers. They say that will determine if any COVID-19 policies change.

Both districts encourage other schools that have not made a decision yet to talk to staff and parents to come to the best decision for their community.

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