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With record-high covid cases looming overhead, Arkansas students and teachers return to classrooms


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    SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KFSM) — Students and teachers across Arkansas headed back to in-person classes Monday (Jan. 4) following the holiday break. The return to classrooms comes off the heels of Arkansas passing a record-breaking number of covid-19 cases.

With Springdale Schools being the largest school district in the state, school leaders say they are always practicing safety precautions, especially after the surge of cases during the holidays. Springdale Schools told 5NEWS they are looking forward to having students back in the classrooms after a 16-day break.

On Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, the Arkansas Department of Health reported over 4,000 new covid-19 cases over a single day in Arkansas. This left some parents wondering how safe the return to school would be.

Local school leaders say they understand parent’s concerns but are confident moving forward.

“We’ve always got to keep an eye on that but when you think the numbers that we’ve experienced in the first semester,” said Rick Schaeffer, Communications Director at Springdale Public Schools. “I think the most we had in any one week was 180 and we have 22 thousand students. Now we had quarantine numbers that were higher than that, but the actual cases we’ve never been ravaged by that at any one time.”

Springdale Schools are continuing similar precautions that they took during the first semester of the school year, suck as cleaning buildings three times a day before school, during classes, and after the school day ends.

Springdale Schools are seeing more students leaving remote learning behind and returning on campus to start this new school semester.

“We had about 250 students left virtual and gone back to the classroom,” Schaeffer said.

Dr. Dillaha with the Arkansas Department of Health says they are worried about a post-holiday surge and now have to watch carefully.

“Make sure we take whatever steps are needed to minimize transmission if a case is identified in a school setting,” Dr. Dillaha said.

Looking ahead, Springdale Schools are now waiting on a vaccine for teachers, hoping those doses are received soon.

“When the vaccine has been made available to teachers throughout Arkansas, that’s gonna be another plus of eventually returning to normal,” Schaeffer said.

Springdale Schools leaders say their goal is to go all semester without taking a remote week. Something that only happened once during the first semester.

The Springdale School Board is also set to vote later this month on extending its existing paid covid leave for staff. Originally, 20 days were given and expired at the end of 2020. If passed, the 20 days of leave not already used will be extended until June 30, 2021.

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Article Topic Follows: National-World

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