NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, Ark. (KNWA/FOX24) — Governor Asa Hutchinson is continuing to advocate for in-person learning, even as COVID-19 infections are reaching record highs.
“We can only control, and they can only control what happens in the schools,” said Farmington parent Lauren Mallett-Hays. “What we’re seeing out in the communities is just people blatantly not caring about other people.”
Mallett-Hays’ kids were excited to go back to in-person learning at Farmington Schools this semester. She kept her kids virtual last semester during the Delta surge. But now, Farmington Schools is moving its middle and junior high schools to alternative method instruction until Tuesday next week.
“I can’t complain about what Farmington has been trying to do except for you know, not implementing the masks to start with,” she said. “But they’ve implemented as much as they can and they changed like the air filtration in the schools last year. So they’ve done some really great things.”
Farmington Schools said in a press release that it is facing a number of staff who are currently positive and have to quarantine, on top of a big increase in student absences. The district says it has wi-fi hotspots available, if internet access is a concern. You should contact your school’s office to get the hotspot.
“What we can’t do in Arkansas is to close down in classroom instruction in our schools,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson.
The governor said keeping kids in school is a number one priority.
Education Secretary Johnny Key said school districts can only take up to 15 days of alternative method instruction. If schools need to shut down further, he said they can use make-up days, or consider adding an additional hour to the work day to make up for the days off.
“It is critically important for the well-being of our young people, for their mental health, for their development, for their education, and for the stability in life that in-person instruction provides,” he said.
The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement is urging schools and other entities to go as virtual as they can over the next few weeks as Omicron continues to surge. ACHI created a new color category on it’s district case tracking map because cases are so high right now.
With this current spike, Mallett-Hays doesn’t think forcing in-person learning is the safest route.
“I think there’s a fine line of getting kids in school safely and then having disregard for their safety and I think he’s toeing the line right now with with the numbers that we’re seeing in the state, especially in this area,” she said.
The governor continued to advocate for vaccination. State Health Secretary Jose Romero only 10.3% of kids between the ages of 5 and 11 are fully vaccinated.
Governor Hutchinson is also encouraging any retired teachers, or others who might be qualified, to sign up to be substitute teachers. He called it, “a huge public service to our school systems.”