Coronavirus Coverage from KARK

Little Rock School Board approves vaccine incentives, extended COVID leave

Coronavirus

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – As families countdown to the fall semester, the Little Rock School Board met Thursday evening to debate what to do about COVID and how to keep kids safe.

One of the major topics of discussion had to do with masks. Parents wrote in to board members and spoke via Zoom to encourage the board to reinstitute a mask requirement.

“With the new variants sneaking up on us, I feel that the district should continue to enforce masks in schools,” Stacy Grip, a parent said. 

However, the school district is unable to mandate masks due to state law, the fight is now in the hands of the legislature as explained by board president Vicki Hatter.

“I am personally not in support of defying the law. But I may be in support of challenging it,” Ali Noland of Zone 5 said. 

But while the legal issue of masks is debated, Thursday’s meeting made it clear the issue of safety would be tackled in other ways. 

Two other initiatives focused on teachers got the approval. The first creates an incentive for staff to get the shot, paying $300 to each employee that gets the vaccine by October 1. 

The concern for some was the cost, and if it would even work to convince those who haven’t previously been vaccinated. 

“80% of this incentive program is going to be paid to people who have already done it,” worried Jeff Wood of Zone 9.

However, the initiative was still voted through – along with extended COVID leave for employees until December. 

But the final COVID Ready to Learn plan is still a work in progress for the board, with Hatter adding, “we’re definitely going to have to be fluid and flexible.” 

Hatter added that the board was still waiting on COVID guidance from the state and CDC before finalizing any decision.

Board members hope to have the finalized outline by the end of the week, with the goal of sending guidelines to parents on August 13th. 

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