Fort Smith Public Schools teacher and staff vote on mask mandate uncertain


It is unclear, even after a statement from the Fort Smith Public School District, if teachers and other staff in the system will have any formal say in a mask mandate the school board approved Monday (Aug. 9).

On Friday (Aug. 5) Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox granted a restraining order that temporarily blocks the state from enforcing the mask mandate ban, Act 1002, for the 2021-22 School Year.

The school board passed an amended resolution that will require face coverings by all students, employees and visitors in school buildings or vehicles when more than two people are present for 60 days or reversal of Fox’s decision. The resolution also allows Superintendent Dr. Terry Morawski to make exceptions to the mandate upon recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and states that all students and employees and their families will be encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine and to wear masks per CDC & ADH recommendations.

However, there was some discussion during the board meeting and comments later on social media about teachers and staff having an opportunity to vote on a mask mandate. FSPS administration issued a statement Tuesday about implementation of the mandate.

“District leaders will discuss the mask requirement with certified and classified personnel policy committees for clarification and support. The Board will review the requirements of the resolution and current COVID conditions at its upcoming meetings,” noted part of the statement.

What is meant by clarification and support is not known. Talk Business & Politics asked the district if a vote will be held among teachers and staff, or is the mandate in place without a faculty vote?

“We know that they will be providing feedback. We do not know at this time if that feedback will come in the form of an official vote or not,” FSPS spokesperson Christina Williams noted in a response.