School district reimplements mask policy

Spike in cases in community causes school to enforce mask wearing again
Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 6:39 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 14, 2021 at 5:26 PM CST
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HIGHLAND, Ark. (KAIT) - Masks will once again be required in one Region 8 school district, due to a rise in cases in surrounding areas.

Highland School District announced the change on Nov. 8, effective immediately. The reimplementation was part of their larger mask policy which changes as cases fluctuate.

Since the surrounding area was deemed a “high-risk” area by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, officials said the masks are coming back.

However, on Sunday, district officials said the school is under a “medium risk”, meaning the district will strongly recommend that all students and staff continue to wear masks.

The Highland School District has fallen into the Medium Risk category for known Covid infections according to the ACHI...

Posted by Highland School District on Sunday, November 14, 2021

District Nurse Megan Kulzycki said despite the uptick in community spread, the school district isn’t seeing an increase in cases.

“Right now our school district numbers are good,” Kulzycki said earlier this month.

As of Wednesday, Nov. 10, five students and two staff members are positive for COVID-19, and 23 students are in quarantine. According to Kulzycki, an additional 123 students would have been in quarantine if not for the mask policy.

When wearing masks, the exposure radius decreases as far as the school is concerned. Students who would have been considered close contacts that were wearing masks may not be considered close contacts, depending on how close they were to the infected.

The school said “nearly” 70 percent of staff and “almost” 25 percent of students 12-years and older are at least partially vaccinated. They do not have any current numbers on students aged 5 to 11 but expect to see some soon.

However, the surrounding area is lagging behind in terms of vaccinations.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, only 36 percent of adults in Sharp County are vaccinated, compared to 48 percent across the state. Kulzycki said this is likely playing a part in the rise in cases.

“The lack of vaccinated people obviously gives us more cases and spreads easier throughout our community,” she said.

The mask policy will only apply to students and staff during school hours and does not apply to sporting events or other after-school activities.

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