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UPDATE: On Thursday morning, Marion schools reported 839 were under quarantine, an increase of more than 100 from the day before. See earlier story below.

MARION, Ark. — More than 700 people in the Marion School District are quarantined, with 43 positive cases of COVID-19, the district’s superintendent told state leaders Wednesday.

Superintendent Glen Fenter said 730 were quarantined as of the morning, and that number was rising. None were hospitalized, he said.

“And I was told just a few minutes ago, the numbers continue to rise rapidly,” Fenter said at the special session. “If our students had been under the same mask mandate, that we administered last year, instead of 730 people quarantined. We would have had 42.”

Fenter said about 1/3 of those quarantined came from elementary school students, while the majority came from junior and high school students who are more active and more social.

He said the cases aren’t isolated to one school, so can’t just close one school to stop it. He said he has had conversations about closing entire district.

The superintendent has said there are about 400 employees and 4,000 students in the district.

His remarks came as he spoke to the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee in the Arkansas General Assembly. Lawmakers are in a special session to discuss amending a state law to allow school districts to mandate masks.

Lawmakers spent hours asking questions, and the public was able to ask questions too. Some disagreed with the idea of having children wear masks during the eight hour school day.

Indicating this debate is only heating up, this week even the governor chimed in saying he regrets signing the law a few months ago.

“Everything has changed now. Yes, in hindsight I wish it had not become law,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson.

As of July 31, just days after the start of school, 168 people in the school district were quarantined. By Monday, the district said there were 18 positive cases, resulting in 253 quarantines.

Information from Marion School District:

We continue to strongly encourage all eligible individuals to get vaccinated, to wear facemasks while indoors, and to practice physical distancing whenever possible. To see our school district’s complete Covid-19 safety guidelines for the 2021-22 school year, click here.

Vaccination remains the leading public health prevention strategy to end the Covid-19 pandemic, and all eligible students and staff members are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated. Benefits of vaccination include:

·         You can protect yourself, friends, family, students, and co-workers from being infected.

·         As an MSD employee you will not be required to quarantine (using your own leave time) if you are exposed. Any quarantined employee who has exhausted all of         their leave will be required to take leave without pay.

·         As an MSD employee, you will be eligible for a one-time stipend of $200.

For additional information about the safety and efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines, click here.


1- Students and staff placed in quarantine must isolate themselves for at least 7 days, and as many as 14 days, depending on test results and the presence of Covid-like symptoms.

2- There are three ways to avoid being quarantined after a close contact exposure: 1) Being fully vaccinated; 2) Proper masking of the infected person and the exposed individual(s); 2) Diagnosed with a past COVID-19 infection within the last 90 days