Harrison, Arkansas school district reinstates masking as COVID-19 cases rise

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HARRISON, Ark.– Monday, school officials in Harrison, Arkansas began enforcing a temporary mask mandate. The district made the announcement about the mandate on Friday. The Superintendent said it was a difficult decision, and there has been some pushback, but he said ultimately masking is better for kids than virtual learning.

Students OzarksFirst talked to agreed. “Yeah, it’s definitely better. I would much prefer to be on-site than be outside,” said Jackson Parker, a junior at Harrison High School.

Another student, Bailey Brown, said she understands it’s a precaution needed to keep everyone safe. “I’m just glad to be back, honestly. I hope that we don’t have to go off-site. That’s the last thing I would want to do. I mean, everyone needs an education and we’re almost at the end,” Brown said.

Harrison’s superintendent, Stewart Pratt, says they follow a metric from the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement to judge whether additional measures need to be taken to stop the spread of COVID-19. Pratt says the district’s caseload has met the mark to take action, saying, “So we chose to bring the mask back for a short period of time, for nine days, nine school days. And hopefully, that’ll get that subsided down. And we can take them back off a little bit later.”

District leaders are also consulting local hospitals, doctors, and district data.

Superintendent Pratt says the decision to go back to masking was difficult, but he believes students are willing to follow the rules so they don’t have to go back to virtual learning. “I mean, it’s not something that anybody wants to do, but our students really want to participate in their activities, band, choir sports. They also want to be at school.,” he told OzarksFirst, “They will tell you that they like the in-person learning a little bit more than they do the offsite learning for an entire year.”

Tracie Thomas, the Harrison High School Librarian said, “It was nice to have a little break, but to be able to come to school is really positive.” She said students have been good about making sure they’re wearing masks.

Pratt said a few people who have strong opinions about masking have given the district some pushback. “We honor those opinions. We are in America and everybody has a voice. We just have to look at the greater good and do what we think is best. We feel like this is the best way to protect our kids and keep learning moving forward,” he said.

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