LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – With COVID-19 cases spiking post-Christmas, school districts are preparing for the return of students.

In Benton, this involves a deep cleaning process where classrooms and hallways are fogged, sanitized, and wiped down a week before students are set to arrive.

“Our maintenance crew, they take their job seriously,” explained Isabella Bradley with Benton Public Schools. She adds that extensive cleaning follows a similar routine to what is done on a weekly basis and comes in addition to air purifiers in every room and hand sanitizer stations across the district.

“We make sure that we really are keeping our kids safe,” Bradley said.

While maintenance crews cover the District’s part in keeping kids safe, the other end of the fight comes from the students themselves.

Dr. Robert Hopkins at UAMS has been tracking COVID-19 since it began. He’s predicting a rise in COVID cases post-winter holiday season, something that could quickly spread through schools without proper precautions.

“What we’re seeing is probably the tip of the iceberg,” Hopkins said, sharing his concerns for a rush of students fresh from travel returning to school. “Really the bigger issue with COVID-19 is airborne spread.”

Hopkins says the best thing is to get as many eligible kids vaccinated as possible, with those missing their boosters also on the list. In addition to the shot, he also encourages mask use indoors and says N95, KN95, and clinical masks do better to protect against variants than cloth masks.

Other advice Hopkins shared was to keep your kids home if they’re not feeling well and to test again once you’re out of quarantine to make sure you’re fully recovered before heading back to class.