Coronavirus Coverage from KARK

Mountain Pine Schools close for the week, uptick in absences due to COVID-19 and other illnesses

Coronavirus

MOUNTAIN PINE, Ark. – Mountain Pine School District is closing its elementary and high school doors this week following an uptick in sicknesses.

Tuesday halls were empty at the high school after the district announced Monday students would learn virtually for the rest of the week.

The elementary school will also be closed Thursday and Friday.

“There’s really nothing we can do with no subs and kids not coming to school,” Mountain Pine School District Superintendent Bobby Applegate said.

Mountain Pine High School principal James Galarza says absences hit a peak Monday. The school reported about 10 teachers and 140 students absent. Galazra says that’s about half of the high school.

“It’s been an accumulation over the last several weeks,” Galarza said.

The elementary school reported a similar situation. The principal there says she had about five teachers and 70 students out.

“We’ve only had three days all year where we had our entire staff out school,” Mountain Pine Elementary School Principal Lisa Engebredson said.

The district says the absences are a combination of COVID-19 cases and quarantines, the flu, and seasonal cold symptoms.

“It’s a no-win situation for any school right now,” Applegate said.

Sheila Gadberry has a ninth-grader at home this week.

“I think the whole COVID year kind of prepared us for any initial shock,” Gadberry said.

She says the district’s decision to close school doors was a good one.

“With the holidays coming up, we just have to take all the precautions we can,” Gadberry said.

Mountain Pine says in the time off, more mops will hit the floor as the district works to disinfect both campuses.

“We’re going to go disinfect the classrooms, the hallways, the bathroom the gym,” Applegate said.

Applegate says the district will continue to encourage mask-wearing and vaccinations. They will also continue to practice safe sanitization in classrooms.

They say the hope is to keep kids in school once they open doors.

School will resume after Thanksgiving.

The district says they believe lax mask-wearing contributed to the absences. They say a mask mandate could be something they consider after the holiday break.

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