Coronavirus Coverage from KARK

Parents respond to Benton Public School board’s decision to make masks optional for students


BENTON, Ark. – With less than a week until students hit the hallways, districts are weighing the decision whether to require face masks.

Benton Public Schools is one of the first major districts to make face masks optional for staff and students.

The wheels are turning into the 2021 school year with a unanimous decision from the Benton Public School board to make masks optional.

“Our school board feels that the best way for us to start this school year is by starting it the same way we ended the last school year,” Benton Public Schools spokesperson Isabella Bradley said.

Instead, they approved the purchase of air purifiers for all the classrooms.

“The most important thing for us is to make sure our staff and our students they are safe and they are healthy,” Bradley said.

Some parents, like Grady Howell, think this was the best choice. He has a son in high school who would rather not put on a mask.

“He comes home and says he’s tired of the mask,” Howell said.

He believes if they aren’t required to wear a mask at other places around town, why on campus.

“Go to the grocery store, go to the convenient store, they can get it anywhere it’s not just here at school,” Howell said.

Other parents, like Jessica Salyers, wish they could have had more of a say.

“I mean it’s really nerve-wracking. They just kind of did what they wanted to do without asking the people who are really most affected by it,” Salyers said.

She has two kids in school that are not old enough to get the vaccine.

“I just don’t want them to get it and have to be in the hospital or pass it to my son who is even younger,” Salyers said.

She said despite the school board’s decision, her kids will be in class–faces covered.

“I just think everyone should do their part to protect those who can’t get vaccinated yet,” Salyers said.

Benton Public Schools said they continue to work closely with the Arkansas Department of Health to follow all guidelines.

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