Mid-South school districts confident mask mandates will reduce quarantine numbers

Arkansas school districts confident mask mandates will reduce quarantine number
Arkansas school districts confident mask mandates will reduce quarantine number(Source: WMC)
Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 5:40 PM CDT
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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (WMC) - Wednesday, the Marion School District began requiring masks for all students, staff, and visitors regardless of vaccination status.

“We truly believe that you’ll see our quarantine numbers drop precipitously,” said Marion School District Superintendent Dr. Glen Fenter.

Fenter says learning loss is a big concern and part of the reason they took action.

“Our school board continues to focus on one simple question, what’s best for our students,” Fenter said.

Since school started July 26, over 1,200 students have needed to quarantine. The latest numbers show 91 students are quarantined with 10 new students testing positive for COVID-19.

“We’ve had a lot of very positive comments from our faculty and staff, and from parents who have reached out and thanked us for taking a stand,” Fenter said.

Kathryn Pirani, who has two children in the district, says her kids have been masking up since last week.

“I had a child on quarantine and so I immediately started sending my son to school with a mask on just to make sure. Hey, he is safe, he can stay in school, and it’s just really important that everybody start taking those actions,” Pirani said.

The West Memphis School District starts school Monday.

Superintendent Jon Collins says after seeing what happened in Marion and the failed attempts at the state level to keep students safe, they will also be requiring masks.

“We all kind of watched what did not happen out of our special called session with our general assembly and we all basically took the approach of, we’re responsible for over 5,000 children’s health every day,” Collins said.

With the spread of the Delta variant, they are offering in-person and virtual learning.

Collins says in the last few days, parents have been inquiring if they can still make the switch to virtual. The district is gathering data on how many students will be in person.

Collins is hopeful they won’t see large numbers of students quarantine because they are starting the school year requiring masks, and due to the number of employees vaccinated.

“So, we’ve got a pretty high percentage of vaccinated employees. We surveyed our folks on Monday and 76 percent of our employee base is fully vaccinated. We have another eight percent that have round one, so when those are completed we’ll have 86 percent,” Collins said.

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