The Conway Board of Education voted unanimously to make masks optional for students and faculty effective Monday, Oct. 18 at its monthly meeting Tuesday after a lengthy debate.

The decision was made after seeing the relatively low number of cases throughout the district between both faculty and students with 15 active student cases and 38 students in quarantine as of late afternoon Tuesday.

“We try the best we can to look at the sources and the data we’re given and then we have to make an educated decision based on that data,” board President Trip Leach said.

Board member Bill Clements was the most vocal and the first of the board members to bring up wanting to reverse the mask mandate.

“I think our young kids are going to be alright,” he said. “Bottom line is we all want to do what’s best for our young people. We need to give that power back to the people, to the parents, who can make their own decision for their own kids.”

Board Vice President Scott Champlin was also a vocal supporter of removing the school mask mandate.

“I go to all these football games and out of school events and I’m not seeing any masks,” he said.

Board member Andre’ Acklin was a huge supporter of the mask mandate at the beginning of the year, but made it clear he is ready to change his mind.

“I’m at the point that, when looking at the data, we are up the road enough after almost two years that I feel like we can relax and go to maybe like an optional,” he said.

While board Secretary Diane Robinson and board member Amy Ferdowsian were supporters of moving masks to be optional only, they did still voice concerns throughout the meeting.

“My biggest concern is that children under 12 are not vaccinated yet,” Ferdowsian said. “They haven’t had the same opportunities that our junior high, high school and half of our middle school have had.”

The board voted to make the decision effective Monday in order to give the administration time to contact all the parents in the district. The district will move away from the previous spotlight system and is open to bringing masks back if cases get significantly worse.

The parents in attendance who opposed the mask mandate erupted in applause after the decision.

Jordan Wooodson can be reached at jwoodson@thecabin.net

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