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Arkansas lawmakers push to overturn state’s mask ban

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 5:28 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 23, 2021 at 7:38 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The start of the school year is right around the corner and Arkansas lawmakers are pushing for COVID-19 protections in the classroom.

Democratic lawmakers in Arkansas are urging Governor Asa Hutchinson to lift the state ban that stops schools from requiring masks. Hutchinson says he doesn’t plan to.

RELATED | Masks remain optional for many school districts in Shelby Co.

Hutchinson made a visit to Washington D.C. to attend a COVID-19 and education panel discussion.

He says the state is still working on its guidance to give to schools. But they will not be requiring masks.

“We’re going to have an emphasis on good ventilation, some layered public health measures as you go into the classroom and then if they’re not vaccinated they should be wearing masks we just won’t be mandating it,” said Hutchinson.

The Arkansas legislature isn’t set to meet until the fall but Democratic lawmakers are urging Hutchinson to call a special session so that they can discuss repealing the mask ban. Concern about the rise in the Delta variant has a lot to do with why they want the ban lifted.

Hutchinson says that instead of mandating masks he’d like to focus more on people being vaccinated.

Students head back to class in Marion, Arkansas on Monday and Superintendent Dr. Glen Fenter says there are some COVID-19 protocols parents need to know about.

Masks will not be required because of state law but he is encouraging vaccines and masks.

“I’ve had COVID. I don’t wish that on my worst enemy,” said Fenter. “If they told me the vaccine involved a dull stick or poke in the eye, I’d still take it. I recommend that everyone get vaccinated. Yes, I will be wearing a mask, at my advanced age I don’t want to take any more chances.”

Fenter says teachers will not be required to get the vaccine, but if they do, they will receive a $200 stipend.

He also says masks are currently not required on school buses but the district is looking into whether or not federal law requires them.

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