SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement reports a hundred school districts statewide in the COVID-19 red zone.
The red zone includes school districts with 50 or more new COVID-19 infections per 10,000 residents over the course of two weeks.
“I am concerned about what’s gonna happen as we start putting kids back in school buildings,” said Siloam Springs Assistant Superintendent, Shane Patrick.
Siloam Springs is among the hundred districts in the red zone.
“Things are a little bit worse than they were going into the school year in terms of positive cases, so I have concerns for my faculty, my staff and my students,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins said it is not just the statewide spread threatening the district.
“I know we have some hesitancy in the western side of the county,” Wiggins said.
Associate Dean for the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health Dr. Ben Amick said based on the recent UAMS COVID-19 projection, vaccine hesitancy is also an issue among students.
“Kids in high school- there is a vaccine but you see what kids have done,” he said. “What’s gonna happen in the fall is a lot more people are gonna get sick.”
Patrick said Siloam Springs is aware of that possibility.
“If we have to close the school for a certain period of time, we have a plan that will allow us to do that.”
Wiggins said the district will offer all full in-person classes or virtual learning through Siloam Springs Virtual Academy. He said about 120 students are enrolled in virtual learning for the upcoming school year.
For the majority of families, however, it was important to send their kids back inside the classrooms.
“I think all parents and teachers have concerns, but most of them have the understanding that kids need to be in school,” Patrick said.
Arkansas legislators will meet Wednesday for a special session over Act 1002, which bans state and local mask requirements. If amended, districts would be able to mandate them on their own.
Wiggins said Siloam Springs has no plans in place yet if this decision does become up to the schools.