SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Students heading back to the classroom this week, following winter holiday breaks. Health experts say daily health screenings and making sure to keep your kids home from school if they don’t feel good is very important, during the health crisis. The school community can expect an added layer of protection with the next round of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Rick Schaeffer with Springdale Public Schools said he hopes families practiced social responsibility during the winter break. He said he is proud of how the district handled the first semester, switching to remote learning only for one week after thanksgiving break. He said it was because of the number of teachers in quarantine and not having enough subs to fill in. 

Since then, more substitute teachers have been hired and the district continued to sanitize all of its buildings during the time off. He encourages its school community to continue to be vigilant in following the health guidelines into this semester.

“That’s been the theme of the year so far, if you have a fever if you feel bad whether it is COVID-19 or not, stay home. You can get your lessons done remotely and come back to school when you’re feeling good again,” said Schaeffer.

He continued saying there’s also lots of hope that once the COVID-19 vaccines become available to teachers, faculty and staff that will help keep numbers down. 

“Once the vaccine becomes available to our staff, principals and all of our administrators… that’s going to make it more comforting for those who are working in the schools to feel like things are almost back to normal,” said Schaffer.

The department of health tells us, teachers are considered essential workers and they can expect COVID-19 vaccinations sometime next month if everything stays on schedule.

State Epidemiologist, Dr. Jennifer Dillaha with the ADH said phase one is broken into three categories, 1A, which we are in, 1B and 1C.

People over 75 years old and essential workers like day care workers, teachers, and those in the food industry to name a few make up 1B.

Dr. Dillaha said she expects that first groups to be complete within the next few weeks, then they will begin to vaccinate 1B.

“It is likely that we will not have enough vaccines to vaccinate everyone in 1B at first so we will need to prioritize within 1B,” said Dr. Dillaha.

She continued saying they are getting regular doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and hope the shipments increase as the pharmaceutical companies expand production. There is also the potential for more vaccines to be approved for emergency use authorization by the FDA.

The ADH did note that COVID-19 transmissions in schools are relatively low because it’s a controlled environment but there are concerns about a surge in numbers following the winter break and holiday gatherings.

She said expanding the number of people vaccinated will help turn things around.

Schaffer said at this time there are no talks about mandating vaccines but said it will be highly encouraged. Meanwhile, he is asking for parents, students and staff to be patient and to not loosen up on those safety measures.