The Arkansas General Assembly opened its special session Wednesday with two bills filed addressing the ban on mask mandates for public entities including school districts.
Act 1002, passed this past spring, bans public officials from enacting mask requirements. But since the recent spike in cases related to the delta variant of COVID-19, lawmakers have come under pressure to amend or repeal the law. Gov. Asa Hutchinson called the special session for the specific purpose of addressing the ban.
One bill filed Wednesday by Rep. Julie Mayberry (R-Hensley) would allow local school boards to implement a mask mandate for up to 60 days based on the number of infections in their community. Mayberry ended up pulling the bill after some debate in the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee with plans to amend it to 30 days and file again.
A proposed mask mandate would only apply to public schools with children under 12 years of age, who are not eligible to receive vaccinations, Hutchinson said.
Another bill from Sen. Alan Clark (R-Lonsdale) would allow school districts to implement a mask mandate but also allow students to transfer to another school district based on COVID policies. Clark’s bill is scheduled to be heard before the Senate Education Committee on Thursday.