FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Schools across Arkansas are back open for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic forced them to close in March.
Classrooms at Happy Hollow Elementary that have been empty for months are now filled with kids ready to learn.
“We had quite a bit of anxiety not knowing exactly how today was going to go but I have to say I’ve been pleased,” said Principal Dondi Frisinger.
Frisinger said safety from COVID-19 is top of mind, which is why kids will notice the desks and tables don’t look the same way.
“They’ve tried to distance them in the classroom away from each other as well as in the cafeteria,” she said. “We’ve put our benches as far apart as we possibly can and have students just sitting on the sides of them.”
Joel Tumlison, a physician specialist in outbreak response for the Arkansas Department of Health said, “Schools have had to change their operations a lot— from how they do drop off and pickup, how they do bus routes, how they do changes of class, etc.”
One of the new activities this year? Taking mask breaks.
Frisinger said, “We’re going to give our kids some mask breaks, our teachers will take those whenever they’re physically distanced apart.”
Tumlison said this okay, but only in small doses.
“If your mask break is a whole period, that’s not good,” he said. “If it’s a brief period of time to give them a break and encourage them to keep it on all day long, great.”
He also said even if the kids are younger, they should be masked up.
“Even in small children, pediatricians say, ‘hey, kids in kindergarten can learn to wear a mask,'” Tumlison said.
Frisinger said this is expected of her students.
“Our kids came in with their masks on, our kindergarteners, we were worried about out kindergarteners keeping masks on and they are doing a beautiful job so far,” she said.
She said this is her one request for parents, as the school navigates through this unique semester.
“Give us some grace,” Frisinger said. “You know we’re doing the best we possibly can to keep your children safe and that’s our main priority for right now but we also want them to be able to have fun at school.”
For students learning virtually this year, the school has set up WiFi hot spots in different parts of the city.