The Hot Springs School District said Monday that Main Street Visual & Performing Arts Magnet School would switch to AMI Virtual Days today and Wednesday, citing a "large number" of positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff members.
The school building will be shut down to students, and all work will take place online-only for those two days, the district announced on the school's Facebook page Monday afternoon.
Hot Springs Superintendent Stephanie Nehus said in an interview that the district will confer with state education officials to determine if they can return to in-person learning after Wednesday at that campus.
"The HSSD is fighting hard and working diligently to keep students and staff members as safe as possible, while continuing to facilitate learning in classrooms at our schools," she said Monday.
"Like school districts across the Garland County area and the state of Arkansas, we have a high number of COVID-19 cases," she said. "Even so, we are committed to taking precautions and following protocols provided to us by state education and health care officials."
All other HSSD schools are open and continuing as normal, with strict protocols in place, she said.
The Hot Springs Trojans and Lady Trojans canceled their varsity and junior varsity basketball games on Friday, Jan. 7, and today due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, according to Rodney Echols, the school district's athletic director. The junior high basketball games on Monday, and the ones scheduled for Thursday, were also canceled.
"We are currently working with other schools to reschedule games at this time," Echols said. "No dates have been confirmed."
Nehus said the district is following the latest guidance from health care officials, which allows for shortened five-day return options for individuals who are asymptomatic after they are placed in quarantine.
"The best thing that our families can do is keep kids home when they are sick and get them tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible," Nehus said.
The district issued updates following last week's updates by the Arkansas Department of Education Division of Elementary and Secondary Education about COVID-19 general response levels for on-site learning. In addition to continued safety precautions that need to be taken, it includes updates regarding what to do if one tests positive for COVID-19, or is a "probable close contact," and new return dates based on the updated guidance.
As of the end of the day Friday, there were 100 COVID-positive student cases in the district and 19 staff. The cumulative total, since the beginning of the school year on Aug. 16, 2021, was 227 students and 60 staff (since their return on Aug. 9, 2021) to test positive for the virus.
According to the updated guidelines, if an individual tests positive for COVID, they are required to isolate at home for five days from the onset of symptoms or, if asymptomatic, five days from the positive test date. If any other students live in the home with the COVID-positive individual, and are unvaccinated, they must also quarantine away from school and isolate from their positive sibling for five days. If isolation is not possible, they must quarantine for 10 days.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, isolation separates those infected from those who are not, while quarantine separates and restricts the movement of those exposed to the virus to see if they become sick.
The guideline states if a student does test positive for COVID-19, they, or their family, should contact the district's COVID-19 point of contact, Adriane Barnes, or the school principal as quickly as possible.
"Early detection is the best way to slow the spread of the virus to other students," it said.
If an individual is a "probable close contact" -- closer than 3 feet for more than 15 minutes within 24 hours of an individual testing positive, or developing symptoms -- to an individual they are exposed to at an event or anywhere outside their home, they should quarantine for five days. As long as the person remains asymptomatic, they can return after the five-day quarantine period.
The district highly recommends the individual takes a rapid COVID-19 test on the day before returning, or morning of, as the district has them available at all of its schools and its district office. The rapid tests are only available for HSSD students and staff, however.
The district has been approved by the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Department of Education to participate in the Test-to-Stay program, but students can also avoid being sent home to quarantine if they have received their COVID-19 vaccine, even if exposed to someone who tested positive.
At Main Street magnet, teachers will provide assignments to students via their Chromebooks, and will have bundled breakfasts and lunches available for pickup on both days available to all families from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. that families can pick up at the front of the building, the Facebook post said.
A COVID-19 vaccination clinic, facilitated by CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs for both the vaccine and booster shot, will be held this Friday from 2-5 p.m. at the HSSD Welcome Center, 702 Main St.
Additional clinics will be coming at the elementary schools and HSSD Welcome Center, as well as at Hot Springs Junior Academy and Hot Springs World Class High School due to increased demand.
More information can be found on the district's COVID-19 webpage at https://bit.ly/3r4FDnT.