On March 30, 2021, Governor Asa Hutchinson dropped the state-wide mask mandate beginning March 31. Immediately following his announcement, public schools in Arkansas were directed to do several things. Local school boards were required to formally vote whether to continue, modify, or eliminate the use of masks by students and adults. At the same time, all districts were directed to provide a narrative concerning social distancing, responding to any confirmed COVID-19 cases, and how the district will safely provide in person learning the remainder of the school year. These requirements, along with the opportunity for the public to offer comment, must be posted to the district website by April 15.
On April 13, during the board meeting, the South Side School District board of Directors voted unanimously to continue the use of masks through Friday, April 23. There were two reasons cited for this decision. First, the district is in the middle of state mandated testing. We truly need all of our students to be present every day. Consequently, the board wanted to increase the chances that large numbers of students would not be quarantined. Secondly, the Center for Disease Control and the Arkansas Department of Health now recommend that, with universal masking, students can maintain a distance of three feet in a classroom not 6 feet. This means that if all students are masked and a positive case is identified, close contacts will not have to be quarantined. Therefore, requiring masks until the end of testing lessens the chances that large numbers of students will be quarantined. If masks were removed, and a positive case identified, all students who come within 3 feet of the positive case would have to be quarantined. This could become very problematic, very quickly, at the wrong time.
On Monday, April 26, following the completion of state testing, masks will no longer be mandated for students or staff of South Side School District.
We are hopeful, our parents and patrons agree with our reasoning. We have been very fortunate this year and have been able to remain on site. This is due in large part to the plan we developed, efforts along the way, the support of our parents, and good fortune. We would like to conclude the school year in a normal fashion. Other guidance and information will be posted by April 15 to our district website. The school district would like parents and other stakeholders to complete the survey found here. The survey does offer the opportunity for public comment.