Superintendent confirms mask requirement will resume for Fayetteville schools Thursday

Photo: Courtesy, Fayetteville Public Schools

The mask requirement for students, staff, and visitors at all Fayetteville Public Schools campuses will be back in effect when classes resume on Thursday.

Superintendent John L. Colbert on Wednesday said the district received an update from the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) about the number of active cases in the community, which is now at 71 per 10,000 people. The School Board’s most recently approved policy states that the mask mandate would automatically be reinstated if cases rise above 30 per 10,000 for a consecutive 14-day period. The ACHI report for the previous week showed cases at 33 per 10,000.

Masks had been optional for students in grades 7-12 since Nov. 15, and would have been optional for all students after the holiday break if cases had remained under the threshold. Colbert said on Monday he feared the case numbers would be high enough to trigger the mask requirement.

“Fayetteville Public Schools will require the wearing of masks by all persons on all campuses to reduce the spread of COVID-19 until further notice,” Colbert said in an email sent to the district on Wednesday. “All students and staff members are required to wear a mask beginning tomorrow, Thursday, January 6, 2022.”

Colbert also provided an update about the district’s policy on quarantines from school nurse Melissa Thomas.

“We are aware that the CDC and the Arkansas Department of Health have released updated quarantine guidelines for the general public. While local medical providers may be following the updated guidelines, these guidelines are for the general public and not specific to schools,” the email sent Wednesday said.

The current guidelines, governed by the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), for students and staff reentering Fayetteville Public Schools are as follows:

The quarantine period may end for individuals experiencing no symptoms according to the following guidelines:

  • After 10 full 24-hour periods since close contact exposure without testing, or
  • After seven full 24-hour periods since close contact exposure and after receiving a negative test result (sample taken no earlier than five 24-hour periods after exposure).
  • If individuals return to school from these shorter quarantine windows, they should regularly monitor themselves for symptoms to ensure they remain symptom-free and take appropriate precautions (e.g., consistent mask usage) for the duration of the 14-day incubation period.

Exceptions to Quarantine Requirements

  • Individuals who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered within 90 days, as long as they do not develop new symptoms.
  • Individuals exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 will not need to be quarantined if the exposed individual has no symptoms and both the infected and exposed individual consistently and correctly were wearing a mask.
  • Individuals who are fully vaccinated* will not have to quarantine, provided they do not have symptoms.
  • *A person is considered to be fully vaccinated two weeks after having received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson.

Colbert said that the district anticipates new information on quarantine guidance from the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education soon, and will provide that information the district once it becomes available.

“We appreciate your patience and understanding as we get clarity to ensure compliance with all federal, state, and local requirements,” he said.

Students or staff who have had known exposure to COVID-19 should complete an online report form, and will be contacted by the school nurse or school officials.

Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 should also complete an online form, and will also be contacted by school officials. District officials said those who test positive from a home test or by a test conducted by a healthcare provider should complete the online report.

A recent surge of the COVID-19 virus has led to the highest statewide increases reported this week since the pandemic began. New records for new cases and active cases were set on Tuesday, and again on Wednesday with a record 7,488 new cases reported for a total of 38,154 cases currently considered active in the state.

More information on the district’s mask policy is available on their website.

Weekly ACHI COVID-19 Dashboard – Jan. 3, 2022

DistrictKnown infectionsNew infectionsRate per 10K residents

Weekly ACHI COVID-19 Dashboard – Dec. 27, 2021

DistrictKnown infectionsNew infectionsRate per 10K residents

Source: Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI)