School leaders in Garland County taking multiple steps to work to a COVID-free return to class


GARLAND COUNTY, Ark. – Garland County is seeing a super spike in COVID-19 cases just as school districts are laying out their plans for the school year.

The new delta variant of COVID-19 is sending educators back to the drawing board.

“We had started working on a plan and then the cases started rising,” Jessieville School District Superintendent Melissa Speers said.

Speers noted that thanks to the recent spike, social distancing paw prints and sanitation stations won’t be going away anytime soon.

“We’ll still be sanitizing hands as students enter the classroom,” she said. “We’ll still be sanitizing desks in between class changes.”

While masks can’t be mandated, Speers said it is recommended for those not vaccinated.

Parents sending their children off in a few weeks, like Alyssa Pierce, say they feel better this year than last.

“Neither of my kids had been in the school system before, and then having COVID thrown on top of that it was a little bit scary,” she said.

Pierce also works in the district and says that helps to put her mind at ease.

“Seeing the precautions being taken by the staff and by the teachers and everybody, it made me feel better,” she said.

From one district to the next, Mountain Pine COVID-19 point of contact Denise Smith said they decided to cancel their third summer school session because of the spike in cases in the county.

“We just want to start the school year on time with everybody healthy,” Smith said.

Right now, they are focused on preparing for the fall.

“We have a cleaning crew on hand,” Smith explained. “We are making sure we have plenty of PPE for our staff.”

Along with those precautions, she said there’s one thing that will keep everyone safe.

“I’m really hoping people will decide to get vaccinated,” Smith said.

As both districts finalize their plans ahead of the school year, they are keeping students’ health at the forefront.

“First and foremost, we are here to take care of their students, their children,” Speers said. “I realize that’s the most precious thing they have.”

Jessieville School District will be holding a vaccination clinic next Tuesday for staff, students and even parents. It will be in the new cafeteria from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.

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