With a resurgence of COVID-19 in Arkansas and no vaccine for children 11 and younger, masks will continue to be required in Catholic elementary schools in Arkansas.
Superintendent Theresa Hall released a statement July 22 to parents to alert them of this requirement for all students and staff.
“I had high hopes that our Catholic schools in the Diocese of Little Rock would be able to begin the 2021-2022 school year without having to worry about the coronavirus since the vaccine is available to those 12 and older and there had been a dramatic decrease in positive cases in the spring and early summer,” Hall wrote. “Unfortunately, with the recent increase of positive cases in Arkansas and the confirmation that the delta variant is far more transmissible, causing more children to be hospitalized, the elementary schools will begin the year with everyone 4 years and older wearing masks while indoors.”
Hall said her staff consulted with “medical personnel and school staff” around the state before making the decision. Her office also took into consideration what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Arkansas Department of Health have said.
“This was not an easy decision to make, but it was made with the utmost concern for the health and safety of all of our students and staff,” Hall said. “We will continue to monitor and make any adjustments as we see allowable or needed. I pray that you will continue to support our Catholic schools.”
Hall said schools have been asked to keep other precautions in place that they followed last school year. Desks will be placed three feet apart, and schools will be sanitized regularly. When students and staff are outside, masks will not be required.
Students and staff at Catholic High School and Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock, Subiaco Academy and Ozark Catholic Academy in Tontitown will not be required to wear masks because everyone on campus would be eligible to get the vaccination.
Local leaders at St. Joseph School in Conway and Sacred Heart School in Morrilton will have to review their procedures because their campuses serve pre-Kindergarten through 12th grades, Hall said.
As vaccinations began to roll out to teachers in January, COVID-19 cases dropped dramatically in Catholic schools, Hall said. She estimated there were only five reported cases among teachers and students in 26 Catholic schools from spring break in late March through May.
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