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Rogers School Board revises mask mandate; face coverings now optional for some

by Mary Jordan | September 22, 2021 at 7:21 a.m.
Allen Wright of Rogers speaks to the board concerning the district's covid-19 mask mandate Tuesday at a Rogers School Board meeting. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Mary Jordan)

ROGERS -- The School Board voted 5-2 to revise the district mask mandate to make masks optional for staff and students in seventh grade and above.

Masks are still required for pre-K through sixth-grade staff and students, according to the policy.

Curtis Clements, board vice president, and Suzanne Spivey, board member, voted against the change.

Spivey said she voted against the revision because of current quarantine requirements.

"Kids can't be out of the classroom that long," she said.

Individuals exposed to a confirmed case of covid-19 won't need to quarantine if they have no symptoms and both the infected and the exposed person consistently and correctly wear a mask, said Charles Lee, assistant superintendent.

Clements said he was concerned about varying standards in schools that share grades with different masking requirements.

"It's putting a burden on our teachers," he said.

The board approved allowing Marlin Berry, superintendent, to lift the mask requirement for all students and staff if positive cases of covid-19 for the district decrease to 20-29 infections per 10,000 residents over a 14-day period, according to the policy.

There are currently 30-49 cases of covid-19 per 10,000 residents, Lee said.

The board will reevaluate the policy at its October board meeting, in the event the mandate remains in place at that time, administrators said.

The board originally voted Aug. 12 at a special meeting to approve a temporary requirement to wear masks indoors and on district transportation for staff and students in pre-K through 12th grade.

About 11 people made comments concerning masks at the meeting.

Janelle Potts, a physician and parent of a Rogers High School student, asked the board to continue the mandate.

"Masks work," Potts said, noting quarantines that pull students out of school are disruptive.

Risks of covid-19 quarantines increase when students aren't wearing masks, she said.

"We are not out of the woods yet," Potts said. "Please keep the mask mandate to keep our students safe and in school."

Kara Bruce is a parent of a 6-year-old Rogers student who asked the board to allow parents to make choices for masks that are best for their children.

Her child is only able to remove her mask for 90 minutes total at lunch and recess during the school day, she said.

"That's an incredible ask of a small child," Bruce said.

There were 60 active cases of covid-19 Tuesday in the district, Lee said. Forty-nine were students and 11 were staff members, he said.

There were 205 total students and staff members experiencing quarantines Tuesday as well, Lee said.

In other news, the board voted unanimously to approve a more than $1.2 million guaranteed maximum price to construct a parking lot adjacent to the baseball and softball complex at Heritage High School.

The 1.2-acre parking lot will provide an additional 145 parking spaces for the complex and football games and will replace the former grass parking area behind the stadium, according to board documents.

The board unanimously agreed in May to pay $367,500 for a 0.29-acre lot at 1306 and 1308 S. Sixth St., which includes a duplex that sits on the future parking lot location.

That property has been combined with two other contiguous properties at 602 and 700 W. Ash St. the district bought in the fall of 2020 for $650,000 and will be made into a parking lot at the corner of South Sixth and West Ash streets.

The approved guaranteed maximum price also includes demolition of the duplex and an additional 40 parking spaces that weren't part of the original budget, according to supporting documents.

The initial budget for the project was $1.2 million, Lee said. The revised budget includes a $96,594 increase in costs, according to board documents.

The work is being completed by Nabholtz Construction Corporation out of Rogers and is being funded through the district's building fund, according to board documents.

How they voted

Here’s how Rogers School Board members voted Tuesday on a decision to revise the School District’s mask mandate.

YES

Nathan Gairhan

Amy Horn

Rob Phillips

Paige Sultemeier

Mitch Lockhart

NO

Curtis Clements

Suzanne Spivey

Source: NWA Democrat-Gazette

More News

Meeting attendance

The Rogers School Board is an elected group of seven members who set policies, oversee finances, hire the superintendent and provide direction for the district.

The board typically meets at 5 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month in the district administration office at 500 W. Walnut St.

Source: Rogers School District

Print Headline: Rogers School Board revises mask mandate

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