Booneville, Paris schools go without masks

Alex Gladden
Fort Smith Times Record
Two boys lower the American flag at the end of the school day, Wednesday, Jan. 13, at the Booneville Elementary School.

The Paris and Booneville School Boards have lifted mask requirements for their students and staff. 

Paris' decision came April 8 and mandated that students continue to wear masks until April 16. Following April 16, the decision to wear masks is left to the individual students and staff members, Superintendent Wayne Fawcett said. 

Fawcett still recommends that students and staff wear their masks. The school will also still be enforcing most of its social distancing and cleaning policies throughout the rest of the school year. 

The school board required an extra week of masks because “we just want to make sure” that numbers stay low, Fawcett said. Fawcett estimated that the district has not had a COVID case for at least the past three weeks. 

The number of COVID cases remains low throughout the county. At the Booneville School District, Superintendent Trent Goff said he has not had a case in the past four to five weeks. 

Goff said his school board wanted to leave the decision to wear masks to the school community. 

“It would be left up to each individual family," Goff said. 

The Booneville School Board decided to lift its mask requirement at a special meeting. 

“Since we’ve dropped it we’ve had no positive cases. Everything seems to be going smoothly," Goff said. 

Goff said that all the other safety measures established to keep people safe from COVID are still in place. 

“The only thing that changed was the mask requirement," Goff said. 

Of surrounding schools, the superintendents have only heard of two districts, Fort Smith and Clarksville, that are continuing to wear masks throughout the end of the year. 

Students and faculty at Booneville will not wear masks during the next school year either unless another directive comes from the governor requiring people to wear them, Goff said. 

Fawcett said that his school board has yet to make a decision about whether people will don masks within the schools. Officials are continuing to evaluate the progress that area makes before deciding on next year's policy. 

“Hopefully, optimistically we’ll continue, people will be vaccinated and cases will remain low and hospitalizations will remain low. Optimistically we will not have to wear them; we will not have to mandate it," Fawcett said. 

He added that the Paris schools will support anyone who wants to wear a mask. 

“We’ll never tell people they can’t wear them," Fawcett said. 

Fawcett applauded the moves that his students and faculty have taken to protect people from COVID. 

“I’ve just been really amazed at how well our students and our staff have addressed this throughout the school year and the measures that they have, you know, accepted to mediate this whole virus," Fawcett said. 

He said he had zero problems keeping the mask mandate. 

“Kids have said 'We’re going to do what you ask us to do,'" Fawcett said.