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Central Arkansas school district prepares for class as COVID-19 surges

Class begins August 16 for PCSSD schools, but the worry over how the latest COVID-19 surge will affect students is top of mind for district officials.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The first day of school is a few weeks away, and Arkansas is still seeing more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases a day.

Janice Warren is the Assistant Superintendent of Equity and Pupil Services for the Pulaski County Special School District.

She said the health and safety of everyone inside of their schools will be a top priority this year, but the recent spike in cases does concern her.

“As the numbers rise, and being the point of contact along with the RN for the district, I am very concerned,” Warren said.

The first bell will ring on August 16 for schools in the PCSSD, but the worry over how the latest COVID-19 surge will affect students is at the top of Warren’s mind.

“Because, of course, we're hearing everything about this delta strand that is highly contagious and attacking younger students more so,” Warren said.

Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) still recommend students sit at least three feet apart while in a classroom.

It’s something Warren said the district has been following since last year.

“We are going to continue to try and physically distance our students as much as possible, however, there are classrooms that are full that we won't be able to do that,” Warren said.

Because a mask requirement in Arkansas schools does not exist as of now, she said the district is having to rethink some of its safety policies.

“We are very concerned this year as to how we will actually implement some of the safety standards that we had in last year,” Warren said.

She said one of the ways the district is keeping students safe is by limiting the number of people in one area at a time.

“We've implemented lunch in the classroom, breakfast in the classroom, where some are in the classroom and some are in the cafeteria, and some are outside in the courtyard,” Warren said.

Even with precautions in place, she is not sure how this school will play out.

“Health and safety for our students and our staff is foremost for us and just what that will look like, we are concerned,” Warren said.

Warren said the district is strongly encouraging students and faculty to wear masks.

The virtual academy school has exceeded the number of available slots because more parents are opting into the virtual learning format.

Warren said she is hopeful the Arkansas Department of Health will open up more slots. 


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