ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Governor Asa Hutchinson announced new protocols for quarantining in Arkansas schools.
Some close contacts for COVID-19 will be allowed to skip quarantine and go to school.
First, here’s a quick rundown of the existing rules: A student can avoid quarantine if they’re fully vaccinated, if they’ve tested positive in the past 90 days, which gives them a degree of natural immunity and if both parties involved were wearing masks consistently and correctly throughout the exposure.
The governor announced during his weekly press conference a few ways to avoid quarantine including if more than 70% of staff and students are fully vaccinated in that school.
This includes the entire school population, not just eligible people.
The governor also introduced the ‘Test to Stay’ protocol, which means that a student who does not meet any of the other criteria can stay in school as long as they test negative and wear a mask.
If they test positive, they’ll isolate at home.
Earlier in September, Springdale School District Superintendent Jared Cleveland sent a letter to Governor Hutchinson asking him to modify quarantine guidelines. The new quarantine protocol for schools announced Tuesday reflect those changes Cleveland requested.
As of the last school board meeting on September 14, there were nearly 800 students and staff members identified as close contacts in quarantine. Less than one percent were COVID-19 positive.
“That was the driving force behind trying to ask the state of Arkansas if there is a way we can modify quarantining requirements,” said Springdale Communications Director Trent Jones.
But, as many schools begin changing their mask requirement policies, the new quarantine protocol announcement is not coming as welcome news to some parents, like Karee Dowty.
Dowty has two children in the Farmington School District, which voted to make masks optional Monday, September 27.
“It feels like a slap in the face to parents-especially parents who have young kids because my kids aren’t eligible for the vaccine yet,” she said. “I’m still concerned for both of them. My eight-year-old had Covid this summer, and I’m worried for my seven-year-old that he could get it and he has health issues.”
But as for this ‘Test to Stay’ protocol, Hutchinson said he and state health leaders are confident the changes will not put students at higher risk. He said the goal is to keep students learning inside the classroom as much as possible.
“We’re not compromising health standards, but we are giving options so we can minimize quarantine,” the governor said.