MOUNTAIN PINE, Ark. – In the second week of school more students are coming down with COVID-19 and more students are in quarantine. Mountain Pine is one of the few districts that has not implemented a mask mandate and currently a third of their students are in quarantine. That has school leaders re-evaluating a mask requirement.
The second week of school is underway at Mountain Pine School District, but many desks sit empty.
“In my homeroom, I should have 18 and I have five,” Mountain Pine Teacher Tracy Wilburn said.
Wilburn teaches fifth grade and also has two kids in school as well.
“You know the concerns are the same. It’s a safety concern. It’s the we still want them to be in school and be educated concern,” Wilburn said.
It’s only her class that has been impacted by the number of quarantines.
“In the elementary we had two kids wipe out about 60 kids,” Superintendent Bobby Applegate said.
Right now, Applegate said they have about 200 of their 620 students learning from home.
“Today, I’ve had six new positive cases with about 20 kids being quarantined additionally,” District COVID Point of Contact Denise Smith said
She expects that number to continue to rise.
“Our way out of this is vaccines and mask-wearing,” Smith said.
In response to this uptick, the district is requiring all staff to wear a mask.
“Most of us were wearing them anyway vaccinated or not,” Wilburn said.
Now, they are leaning more towards everyone coming to campus faces covered.
“It looks like we’re probably going to go next week to a mask mandate,” Superintendent Applegate said.
Wilburn said it’s been tough to make the transition from in-person to virtual.
“We live in what we call the pines and there is little to no cellphone service. If we go virtual it doesn’t work well for our school district,” Wilburn said.
That’s why she wants to take every precaution to keep students in the classroom.
“If that’s what we need to do to keep them on campus, that’s what we need to do,” Wilburn said.
Superintendent Applegate said, worst-case scenario, they will have to close for ten days to get a handle on the quarantines. He said they will stay open as long as it is safe to do so.