Booneville schools mark 33 COVID cases for 2020-21 school year
The Booneville School District has had 33 cases of COVID throughout the school year and had to close two schools for four days during November.
Of the 33 cases, 21 were students, and the remaining 12 were staff, said Glenn Parrish, the schools’ director of communications.
Currently, there are four active cases in the district at this time among the 1,158 students, Superintendent Trent Goff said.
The high school closed Nov. 10 to Nov. 13, and the junior high school closed Nov. 17 to Nov. 20, Parrish said.
Goff said the closings were because there weren’t enough staff members in the buildings and not enough substitutes available.
At the junior high, Principal Josh Walker said his school was low on janitorial and cafeteria staff, which forced the move to virtual learning.
This is the biggest problem that Walker said he’s having.
“Getting substitutes has been a challenge this year,” Goff said.
There’s been a shortage of substitutes because they’re having to stay for longer periods of time. If teachers have COVID-19 or have been exposed, they might be out between seven and 14 days, Goff said.
Goff said schools have had to adapt amidst the pandemic, changing their policies to keep kids and staff members safe.
“We have to be more creative in the way we operate and do things,” Goff said.
All schools require temperature checks before students enter buildings. They also require social distancing and students and staff must follow Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s mandate to wear masks in public.
At the elementary school, Principal Jyme Beth Diffee has separated school lunches into two groups that alternate weeks eating in the cafeteria and eating in their classrooms.
The elementary students are separated into four-person groups. Those groups stay together throughout the day and at lunch. The system is designed to limit the contact between children so that if a student gets COVID-19, only three other students should have to be quarantined, Diffee said.
Teachers also schedule times for bathroom breaks, only allowing three students in the bathroom at a time.
“...our kids, they are resilient, and they’ve done amazing with this,” Diffee said.
At the junior high, Walker said teachers arrive early, and students go straight to their first-period class instead of congregating at the front of the school, lobby or cafeteria.
His students already have two lunches and Walker further instructs them to spread out in the lunchroom and allows them to eat in the gym, library or the front of the school.
The high school has reduced class sizes and tries to keep the students as socially distanced as possible, Principal Amy Goers said.
“We have done a pretty good job all year by keeping kids as distant as we can in the classroom,” Goers said.
The students eat breakfast in their classrooms. At lunch, they’re required to sit two students to a table, Goers said.
Goff said he’s proud of the way the students and teachers have overcome the difficulties of this school year.
“I’m proud of our staff, of the way they’ve handled the challenges that have been put before them,” Goff said.