Dear Benton SD Faculty, Staff, and Community,

First and foremost, it is my hope that each of you and your families are well and in good
health. This letter is an effort to provide you with a summary of information related to COVID-
19 and the current position of the Benton SD regarding the start of school on August 16, 2021.

On July 28, 2021, Act 1002 of 2021 went into effect which prohibits state and local
governments, including school boards, from implementing a mask mandate. On August 4, 2021,
Governor Hutchison called legislators into a special session asking them for an exception to the law that would allow each school board the authority to decide whether to require students
younger than 12 years of age to wear a mask. The session ended with no changes to the existing mask mandate ban. On August 6, 2021, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox temporarily blocked the state from enforcing the mask mandate ban. Further legal action is expected on the matter in the future and could even be decided by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Currently, the Benton SD is continuing with the decision that was made in the spring
semester of 2021 to make masks optional for students and staff. Benton SD cares about our
students, staff, community and there has been much thought and consideration given regarding this decision. It is one that we do not take lightly. The district will continue to closely monitor the number of confirmed cases and required quarantines among students and staff along with any judicial decisions for Arkansas Act 1002.

This information will be used to determine if it is necessary to implement a mask
requirement and/or other safety protocols. The district will also continue to follow Center for
Disease Control, Arkansas Department of Health, and the Arkansas Department of Elementary
and Secondary Education requirements regarding, social distancing, screening, testing,
ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested,
contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfecting to the extent practical.

Dr. Mike Skelton