Pulaski County Special School Board sets date for meeting requested by parents on mask policy



The Pulaski County Special School District School Board has scheduled a meeting on November 9 at 5 p.m. in response to a group of parents who have called for a meeting to consider overturning the mandate that students and employees wear face masks inside.

The district said a special 45-minute meeting will begin one hour before the regular monthly school board meeting at 6 p.m.

The parent group, led by Rebekah L. Davis, Wendy Potter and Karyn M. Maynard, submitted the citizen-signed petitions on October 22. They initially requested that a special meeting be held one day this week, but in subsequent discussions with district leaders requested a session on Monday, November 1.

Jessica Duff, a spokesperson for the district, distributed a written statement on Thursday suggesting that a sufficient number of council members would not be available for a meeting until November 9.

“The Pulaski County Special School District acknowledges the request of a group of PCSSD voters to hold a special board meeting to discuss the mandate of the mask in the district,” the district statement said.

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“On Wednesday, October 28, the district proposed to include the discussion at the regular meeting on Tuesday, November 9 as a separate agenda item,” the statement continued. “However, the group’s representatives declined this request and demanded that a meeting be held on Monday, November 1 at 6 p.m.

“Depending on the availability of the education board, the PCSSD will hold a special board meeting prior to the regular board meeting on Tuesday, November 9,” the statement said. “The special council meeting will begin at 5:00 p.m. and end at 5:45 p.m., followed by the regular council meeting which will begin at 6:00 p.m.”

Davis, one of the leaders of the petition campaign, called the district plan “frustrating” and “disappointing.”

“We can’t force them to come forward,” said Davis, who called on the process to be eye-opening. “They have too much power,” she said of the board, adding that parent leaders are now encouraging district residents to vote against the proposed bond debt restructuring in Tuesday’s school election. exchange of council’s “disrespect” to petitioners. .

Davis said the requesting parents are not anti-masks but want the wearing of masks by students to be a matter of parents’ choice.

The Arkansas code annotated 6-13-619 states that the board of directors of a public school district will meet at the request of “50 qualified voters in the school district.” The petition must contain the printed name and address of each voter signing the petition and must meet other eligibility criteria.

The petition for a meeting to repeal the mask’s mandate comes after the school board voted 4-2 on Oct. 12 to continue for an additional 60 days a requirement that students and employees wear masks inside schools with the aim of limiting the spread of covid-19.

Board members Brian Maune and Eli Keller voted against retaining the mask’s mandate. Board members Linda Remele, Stephen Delaney, Tina Ward and Shelby Thomas voted to keep it. Board member Lindsey Gustafson was absent that evening.

The parents’ group requested in the petition that the special session be held in such a way that the district bosses can personally attend and address the council.

The Pulaski County Special District has been among the top five Arkansas school districts in terms of the number of active covid-19 cases in recent days, according to the Arkansas Department of Health bimonthly report on cases of active and cumulative covid in school systems. .

The district ranked third in the state on Thursday with 35 active cases, up from 36 cases reported on Monday and Thursday. The district was behind only the Rogers School District, which had 66 cases on Thursday and Bentonville, which had 56.

Maynard, who describes herself as the mother of a district student, emailed the petition to school board members last week with an introductory note calling for the district’s mask mandate to be repealed, saying it entered into force on August 10 “without constitutional authority.

She cited in support a recent ruling by Benton County Circuit Judge Xollie Duncan in a lawsuit against the Bentonville School Board. Duncan said in that ruling that she couldn’t find any state law giving the Bentonville District the power to issue a mask warrant. She granted the parents’ request for a temporary order preventing the district from carrying out the warrant.

However, the courts in Pulaski and Lonoke County have authorized temporary mask warrants, pending full hearings on the matter.

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Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox’s Aug. 6 ruling in another lawsuit prevented the state from enforcing Law 1002 of 2021. Law 1002 prohibited school districts and other government agencies from ‘demand that people wear masks. Hutchinson enacted the bill, but later said he regretted it as the number of covid-19 cases rose over the summer.

On August 27, Lonoke County Circuit Judge Barbara Elmore dismissed the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary warrant release order.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said it was important for school districts to have the flexibility to require masks, especially as children under 12 are not eligible for covid-19 vaccinations.

Information for this article was provided by Andy Davis of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette


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