#schoolsafety | Fort Smith School District to keep covid-19 safety standards for students, staff

FORT SMITH — Safety protocols the School District instituted because of the covid-19 pandemic will remain in place for the rest of the school year, including the requirement students and staff wear masks.

Deputy Superintendent Martin Mahan provided the School Board an update on the district’s Ready to Learn plan during its meeting Monday.

Mahan said the plan outlines the learning options for students during the pandemic, as well as communication processes, learning management systems, and technology training for certified staff, among other things. The district submitted the plan to the Arkansas Department of Education last fall.

The plan also includes a component focusing on safety for district students and staff, according to Mahan. He told the board the district has been meeting with and getting feedback from its building leaders, who recommended the district maintain the safety measures in the plan until the end of the school year.

The district’s Ready to Learn Committee — including parents, teachers, administrators and students — also asked the district to commit to maintaining those standards.

One aspect of the plan’s student and staff safety component, which is available on the district’s website, is a requirement K-12 students wear a mask or face covering while attending school or a school function in any district building or on the district’s grounds, as well as when riding in school-provided transportation, with certain exceptions. A similar requirement was laid out for district employees.

Mahan mentioned other standards in the plan including those pertaining to arriving at school, visitors and volunteers, food from outside vendors, public reception desks, personal protective equipment and social distancing.

“So there’s a real clear, concise message, in my eyes, that people would like for us to maintain the course through the end of the year with our commitments to staff and student safety as outlined in that proposal, with one exception,” Mahan said.

Mahan said this exception, which is not part of this safety component, deals with student recess at the district’s elementary schools. Students are currently separated during recess according to their class.

However, the Ready to Learn Committee has suggested looking at how students could mingle with students from other classes while still wearing their masks outside during recess. Precautions related to sanitization and washing hands will also remain in place.

May 28 is the last day of school for Fort Smith students.

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The Fort Smith School District had 13,839 students in grades K-12 as of Oct. 1.

Source: Arkansas Department of Education

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