Fort Smith Schools Back to Masks

Malea Seubold

Some may hate it, some may like it. Recently, the Fort Smith Public Schools Board of Education voted four to two in the favor of reinstating another mask mandate. This mandate includes all students, staff, and visitors that are inside of school buildings. This decision comes as a result of the increasing rates of Covid-19 in Arkansas, and the spread of the new variants. Masks will be required for at least a month, or less, if infection rates in Arkansas can drop below 50 per 10,000 people.

The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement has recommended that all schools in the state should require masks. This likely influenced the decision. In the beginning of the first semester, Fort Smith Public Schools (FSPS) had a mask mandate in place, but later removed it and made masks optional. Many students are worried that the mandate will be as strict as the first time. The main complaints with masks were that they made it difficult to breathe. Luckily, it will not be like the first time. Masks will still be enforced and required to wear properly at all times. However, students who play instruments, participate in athletics, or who are in PE will be able to take off their masks while doing their activities. At Chaffin, students will also be able to take off their masks outside while on the patio with some distance between them.

The current Covid-19 infection rate in Arkansas is around 100-199 infections per 10,000 people. This, among other numbers, shows that infections in Arkansas are actually becoming more widespread since the easing of the Pandemic. This is likely due to the new, highly-infectious Omicron variant. Although Omicron is more infectious, the symptoms are typically milder. The FSPS board has said that the goal is to stay in-person as long as possible. It may not be ideal, but masks had to be brought back in order for students and staff to come back to school as safely as possible.