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Some Arkansas school districts lifting COVID-19 restrictions

As COVID-19 cases continue to trend downwards, some school districts in Arkansas are slowly lifting restrictions, including mask mandates and contact tracing.

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Cases continue to drop this week and school districts across the state are beginning to slowly lift COVID-19 restrictions. 

Some are even deciding to stop contact tracing after Gov. Asa Hutchinson made it optional for districts last week. 

These changes are still taking some getting used to for parents like Zara Abbasi. 

"I'm obviously a little bit excited because we want to get back to normal, whatever normal is at this point. But, at the same time, we've personally lost people in our family who died from COVID," she said.

It's a mix of emotions for Abbasi, the mother of three, as COVID-19 restrictions are easing inside the classroom.

"Just trying to find a balance in between where we can be excited, but we can also respect people who are not as excited right now," she said.

While masks are still required at Little Rock School District, Abbasi said her daughter's school is lifting restrictions in other areas, like letting parents back in the building.

"I'm looking forward to seeing them in the classroom and interacting and having those childhood memories," she said.

The North Little Rock School District is one of the many that recently lifted some of their COVID-19 restrictions

Superintendent Greg Pilewski said these changes included allowing full capacity back at sporting events and allowing volunteers and mentors back in the buildings. Another big change is that field trips can now finally return.

"We've constantly been trying to get back to normal, right, as much normal as possible. Kids back in routines, kids getting those field trips, those extracurricular activities that just makes for a well rounded student," he said.

The school board and Pilewski made that decision as cases in their district have dropped dramatically.

Currently there are 165 students and staff in quarantine, which is down from around 650 a month ago, according to Pilewski.

"We have our point of contact, that's one of our school nurses. That is a direct pipeline right to our health department, so we're always monitoring those numbers," he said.

While the district still has a mask mandate in place, they haven't made a decision on contact tracing yet. 

If this downward trend continues though, Pilewski said, more restrictions could be lifted.

"I would love to say in sometime in the future. It would be great to move to potentially pivot, which is what we promised our community, we would look at our data, we would make an informed decision and bring that forward," he said.

Other big districts in the area have changed some guidelines too. The Bryant School District ended its mask mandate, while PCSSD stopped contact tracing.


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