Superintendent John L. Colbert / FPS
Masks for students in Fayetteville schools could soon move from “required” to “strongly recommended” inside school buildings if a new recommendation by the superintendent is adopted later this month.
Fayetteville Superintendent John Colbert on Friday announced he has asked the school board to amend the mask policy in light of the recently rapid decrease in COVID-19 cases in the region.
Colbert announced the recommendation in an email to parents Friday afternoon.
From the email:
In October 2021, when the vaccines were just becoming available for children and the COVID-19 Delta variant was waning, the Fayetteville Board of Education elected to revise the mask policy to strongly recommend that masks or face coverings be worn provided that the district stayed below 30 “new known infections” per 10,000 people over a 14-day period as reported by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (https://achi.net/covid19/). This decision was also in alignment with guidance received from the CDC and the Fayetteville Board of Health. The board unanimously voted that if community spread rose above 30 new known infections per 10,000 over a consecutive 14 day period, the district’s mandatory mask policy would go back into effect. This allowed us to link our policy to a medically-advised public health metric.
On January 5, 2022, community spread reached the threshold contained in Policy 1.19, and the Fayetteville Public School requirement for masks was reinstated. Since that time, we have required masks in all indoor spaces in our school buildings and on school transportation.
Colbert said that since Jan. 5, however, circumstances have changed significantly. Among them, he said, vaccines and boosters are more widely available to students and staff, quarantine guidelines were amended Feb. 1 to no longer mandate isolation for individuals who have been exposed to unmasked positive cases of COVID-19, the prevalence of home testing has made the “new known infections less accurate, he said. Community spread is also down, from 296 new known infections on Jan. 17 to 54 per 10,000 as of Feb. 14.
“There is a current steep downward trend in new cases,” Colbert said. “We anticipate reaching the 30 case threshold very soon, at which time the mask mandate would automatically roll back.”
The school board is set to meet on February 24, and Colbert said he is requesting the board revisit the mask mandate at that time.
“Based on the factors listed above, at the February 24th regular meeting I am recommending to the Board of Education that the mask policy be amended to remove the mask mandate in school buildings and indoor facilities and to strongly encourage the wearing of masks,” he said.