JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Jonesboro school administrators announced their plans to re-open school in the coming weeks.
Following the guidelines set by the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Ready for Learning report issued by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Jonesboro Public Schools said the 2020-21 school year will begin as originally planned on Aug. 13.
“Our goal will be to provide as safe an experience as possible that includes a rich educational experience, with opportunities for social interaction and extra-curricular activities while adhering to guidelines provided by the Arkansas Department of Health,” the statement said.
Among the changes the district will implement:
- Students and adults will complete a daily screening before entering.
- If a student comes to school sick with a temperature over the ADH guidance, they will be sent home.
- Strongly recommending students age 10 and up, as well as adults, wear face coverings when physical distancing cannot be achieved, particularly on school buses.
- The district will provide one mask for every student.
- Social distancing guidelines will be observed as much as feasibly possible. Classrooms and cafeteria spaces will be redesigned to increase the space between students.
- Classrooms will be sanitized before a new group of students enter a space.
- Elementary students will continue to have outdoor playtime with limits on the number of students they come in contact with. Playground equipment will be sanitized between groups of students.
- If an individual tests positive for COVID-19, the district will follow guidance from the ADH. “This could result in a brief closure of a single school within the district to provide time for additional cleaning and sanitation.”
- The district is surveying parents to determine interest in a digital option for students not wishing to return to a traditional classroom. Parents and students will be required to commit to the Virtual Education option no later than July 17.
- Students who commit to full-time virtual learning will not be able to participate in any on-campus or extra-curricular activities.
- Depending on guidance from ADH, arrival and dismissal times may be varied, in order to increase social distancing and to decrease the number of students in the cafeteria and gym before school starts.
Dr. Kim Wilbanks, superintendent of Jonesboro Public Schools, said she wants parents and students to know they have a right to determine what's best for them.
“The main thing I think we want parents to know is we’ve tried to give parents a choice so that they can explore the virtual option, or they can explore the return to on-site instruction,” Wilbanks said.
“We’re trying to look at how to ensure safety but also provide a multitude of experiences for our students.”
Wilbanks added that while the process has been challenging for all, she wants to make the transition as easy and safe as possible.
“I’ve seen people respond so positively. Educators spend a lot of time on academics, but we do what we do because we love children and we care about students.”
The school also announced guidelines for athletics, with athletes resuming workouts Tuesday after a football player tested positive for COVID-19 Monday.
The test result prompted the facilities to shut down for cleaning and sterilizing.
For athletes, MacArthur and Annie Camp students can return to campus on July 7 to start summer conditioning.
While the district expects games to be played this fall, officials will prepare for modifications required by the Arkansas Department of Health.
Governor Hutchinson will announce June 30 if team sports can move forward from Phase 1 and proceed with fewer guidelines.