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Mask mandate will not continue at school

by Annette Beard | September 22, 2021 at 12:44 p.m.
Head football coach Brey Cook spoke in favor of masks to avoid students being quarantined during the Monday, Sept. 13, School Board meeting.

Three of the five School Board members voted against continuing the face mask mandate requested by school superintendent Keith Martin in the School Board meeting Monday, Sept. 13.

Face masks were mandated in a special School Board meeting Sept. 1 with a request to require masks until the regular meeting. Four of the five board members were present. Board member Mindy Cawthon was absent Sept. 1 due to caring for an ill family member. At the Sept. 1 meeting, board member John Dye cast the lone vote against the mandate.

Monday night, Cawthon, Dye and Jenny Wood voted against the mandate. Board members Jeff Neil and Sandy Button voted to continue the mandate.

After a presentation by school superintendent Keith Martin showing numbers of students and staff members testing positive and being quarantined and comments from people present both for and against the mandate, board members voted after making statements, including the statement that they would reevaluate the data at the October meeting.

The decision was applauded by group in attendance.

"A lot of people suggested we had made up our minds before coming into room," Wood said. "Some of the data that was presented changed. We can not come in with a personal agenda. We are to represent the school ... hard decisions have to be made. For myself, I will look at the October data and my decision may change. For parents, if children are sick, please keep them home!"

"I have the utmost respect for our board and administration and support them fully," Dye said. "We're in this difficult situation not by our own doing. I absolutely support this group 100%."

Carrying signs stating "My Child, My Choice," "We kids stand against masks," and "Please don't make kids wear masks" children and about 30 parents stood in front of the Pea Ridge School Administration building waiting for the School Board meeting during which board members heard a recommendation from Martin to continue the mask mandate begun Sept. 1. Martin had data showing that the numbers of students and staff quarantined from covid contact had dramatically reduced since the mandate.

More than 40 people were in attendance at the meeting.

"I can't tell you how important it is that you keep your children home if they're symptomatic," Martin said, after the vote. "Without having the barrier of the masks on both parties... with contact tracing ... they will be quarantined."

Cawthon also shared that one of her family members tested positive but was asymptomatic. She recommended testing household members if anyone within the household tests positive.

Beginning the meeting, Martin said he was requesting the mandate in order to "keep kids in school." He said the Centers for Disease Control guidelines about quarantine require that if a person is identified through contact tracing as being a close contact to someone who tests positive, that person must be quarantined if either of the two persons was not wearing a mask.

"I feel like it's my duty to keep those kids in school," Martin said.

Leslie Jackson, parent of a Pea Ridge school student, read a statement written by Dr. Steve Hennigan (seated center left in white lab coat) in favor of a mask mandate at the Monday, Sept. 13, School Board meeting.
Leslie Jackson, parent of a Pea Ridge school student, read a statement written by Dr. Steve Hennigan (seated center left in white lab coat) in favor of a mask mandate at the Monday, Sept. 13, School Board meeting.
Dione Butler, who said she has three children in the Pea Ridge schools, said she was a nurse before staying home with her children. She spoke in favor of a mask policy before the School Board Monday, Sept. 13.
Dione Butler, who said she has three children in the Pea Ridge schools, said she was a nurse before staying home with her children. She spoke in favor of a mask policy before the School Board Monday, Sept. 13.
At the Monday, Sept. 13, School Board meeting, Anthony Cooper, standing, spoke in favor of removing the mask mandate for students at Pea Ridge schools. One of his daughters held a sign stating "We Kids Stand Against Masks."
At the Monday, Sept. 13, School Board meeting, Anthony Cooper, standing, spoke in favor of removing the mask mandate for students at Pea Ridge schools. One of his daughters held a sign stating "We Kids Stand Against Masks."
Pea Ridge school superintendent Keith Martin, standing, speaking to the group of parents present Monday, Sept. 13, to address the proposed face mask mandate, said: "I'm sure everyone in here loves Pea Ridge School District and with that, we do not need to be disagreeable with each other to the point that we're rude and disrespectful to each other."
Pea Ridge school superintendent Keith Martin, standing, speaking to the group of parents present Monday, Sept. 13, to address the proposed face mask mandate, said: "I'm sure everyone in here loves Pea Ridge School District and with that, we do not need to be disagreeable with each other to the point that we're rude and disrespectful to each other."
At the Monday, Sept. 13, School Board meeting, Anthony Cooper, standing, spoke in favor of removing the mask mandate for students at Pea Ridge schools. One of his daughters held a sign stating "We Kids Stand Against Masks."
At the Monday, Sept. 13, School Board meeting, Anthony Cooper, standing, spoke in favor of removing the mask mandate for students at Pea Ridge schools. One of his daughters held a sign stating "We Kids Stand Against Masks."

Print Headline: Mask mandate will not continue at school

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