AMITY, Ark. – A week and a half into the school year, the Centerpoint School District announced its entire sixth grade will take a virtual day Thursday after half of the class had to quarantine for possible COVID exposure.
So far, the plan is only to be virtual for one day. Superintendent Dan Breshears says they expect those students not exposed to return to class Friday, but those who might have had contact will still need to quarantine for 7 to 10 days.
This close to the start of the school year, the decision comes as a necessary precaution against the further spread and a precedent for how to handle outbreaks in the future.
Breshears adds the day off is meant to assist in deep cleaning classrooms and helping teachers better plan for quarantined students. “It gives our teachers more of a chance to prepare some materials for those students who are out,” Breshears explained.
Masks are currently optional in the school district, but staff are doing what they can to stop the spread. This includes altering transportation and tracking COVID cases and exposures on a regular basis.
“We’ve added three more bus routes so we could lower the number of students on buses and shorten the routes,” adds Breshears.
But even with proactive measures, quarantines have spiked in the past week. As of Wednesday, 64 high school students were homebound with another 49 in the elementary school. Breshears says the numbers they’re seeing in terms of exposed students is much greater than last year.
“This is the first time we’ve experienced a large number of students like this in a block to have to quarantine,” he said.
But Centerpoint isn’t alone; Tuesday, Secretary of Education Johnny Key revealed the first two weeks of school saw a state-wide jump in COVID cases, with an increase of just under 300 for both students and staff.
Brashears says he hopes to flatten that spike so that no more kids must be pulled to virtual. “We want the kids here,” he explained.
The Centerpoint school board is planning on meeting Friday, August 27th to go over possible COVID options, including the possibility of some form of a mask mandate. That’s happening at 5:30 in the high school cafeteria for interested parents.