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Arkansas school districts change mask policy based on COVID-19 cases

After a couple of months into the school year, we've seen Arkansas school districts switch up their mask policies from required to optional or vice versa.

LONOKE, Ark. — A couple of months into school in and we've seen Arkansas school districts switch up their mask policies from required to optional or vice versa.

But some districts are taking a different approach and basing their policy on the number of current cases and quarantines. 

School districts like Searcy and Bryant have recently adopted this mask policy, but at Lonoke School District, they've been doing it since basically the beginning of the school year.

Rachel Knowlton, Communications Director for the district, said it's been working pretty well.

"There haven't been any major issues with students following the policy and any protocols," she said.

Since the end of August, Lonoke Public Schools have based their mask policy off of one specific number, according to Knowlton. 

"Masks are optional until our positive numbers and our quarantine numbers total 50," she said.

If quarantines and cases go above 50, masks must be on. If below, it's up to the student. 

Knowlton said this policy gives them a middle ground. 

"We have had people express that they wish we would wear masks all the time and we've had others say they wish it would be optional all the time, but this lets us have a balance," she said.

According to the district's social media, the last time masks were required was September 22. 

Knowlton said open lines of communication like emails and calls help keep the process smooth.

"We haven't had any major complaints about it being too difficult to do. It's been more of a 'I wish I had known sooner' but we let them know as soon as we can," she said. 

For therapists like Isis Pettway, she worries about a policy that changes weekly could affect kids negatively.

"I don't think the change-up is going to be good for kids' mental health, because what we are seeing is we're either living in fight, flight, or freeze mode," she said.

Pettway said kids need stability, consistency, and structure to thrive.

"I know we talked about flexibility because life happens, but having that predictability, that routine is so helpful and helps things to go so smoothly," she said.

It's important as a parent, according to Pettway, to have clear communication with your child and make the best decision for your family. 

If you want to know the current mask policy at Lonoke Public Schools, you can head here

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