ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) —Arkansas’ Department of Education (ADE) “strongly encourages” schools to continue to follow the guidelines provided by the Department of Health for everyday operation, academic, and extracurricular activities.
We want to emphasize that adherence to the guidance has allowed Arkansas schools to operate onsite safely all year with minimal disruption for school-wide or district-wide modifications to onsite instruction.
While districts have discretion and flexibility in determining how to follow the guidelines, there are important considerations and risks when hosting school events or activities that do not require social distancing and capacity limitations.
It is important to note that the requirements for identifying close contacts to confirmed cases and requirements for quarantine have not changed.Arkansas Department of Education
PLANNING EVENTS/ACTIVITIES FOR SCHOOL YEAR
- School districts should engage their “ready for Learning” committees to help make important decisions with hosting safe events and still provide students with meaningful experiences.
- All Arkansas Activities Association sanctioned events and activities will continue to follow all previous Department of Health directives.
- The Division of Career and Technical Education will continue to follow all ADH guidelines when sponsoring or hosting any events that involve student organizations.
The changes do not affect the school district’s “Ready for Learning” plans which were developed to prioritize onsite learning, student and staff safety, and flexibility to respond to local situations due to COVID-19.
As of Friday, data show that 80.5 percent of students are learning onsite (either full time or part time), and the percent of students learning virtually continues to decrease, according to the ADE.
Earlier Friday, February 26, 2021, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced changes to directives that have been in place — with the exception of the mask mandate — are now guidance and are to be used as guidelines in planning events, for example, prom and graduation.
BENTONVILLE SCHOOLS STATEMENT REGARDING PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY EXTENSION
The proclamation expires on March 31, if certain conditions are met, the mask mandate will be lifted. Those conditions include the following:
- A positivity rate of 10% or less of combined PCR and antigen tests (seven-day rolling average) with at least 7,500 specimens tested on a daily average; or
- If testing is below 7,500 average specimens daily, then fewer than 750 patients hospitalized statewide for COVID-19.
“Our district currently has a face-covering policy in place, but the Bentonville Schools Board of Education has the authority to rescind this policy when the emergency order is lifted. As of now, students and staff must continue to wear face coverings until April 1. If and when that directive changes, we’ll let you know,” said Bentonville Schools Superintendent Sr. Debbie Jones.
“In addition, ADH/Governor Directives were downgraded to guidance effective immediately. You’ll begin to see some changes, but please give us time to meet with our Reopening Task Force and the Board of Education in March. Significant changes, though, such as those regarding traditional graduation, prom, and fine art events are now a real possibility in the immediate future. Once we finalize the plans, we’ll communicate with you,” said Jones.
Dr. Debbie Jones
Superintendent, Bentonville Schools