Northwest Arkansas school district to separate masked, unmasked students, superintendent says

State News

Students, wearing face masks and paying attention to social distancing, study at Les Magnolias primary school during the partial lifting of coronavirus, COVID-19, lockdown regulations in Brussels, Monday, May 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

ELKINS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Elkins School District is preparing to implement separate seating arrangements for masked and unmasked students, according to a letter to parents and guardians from superintendent Jeremy Mangrum on Thursday.

The school district is not mandating that masks be worn inside of school buildings, Mangrum said.

Instead, students who wear a mask will be seated in a section of the classroom only with other children wearing masks.

Six feet of vacant space will separate the masked students from a section of the room for students who are not wearing a mask, Mangrum said.

“This will drastically reduce the chances of masked students being forced to quarantine during the school year,” the superintendent said in his letter to parents and guardians. “All students, whether wearing a mask or not, will receive the same educational experience.”

Mangrum said the biggest percentage of lost instruction time for students last year came from quarantine periods, not from contracting the virus. He said the move is an effort to reduce the number of quarantined students as much as possible.

Currently, individuals who are fully vaccinated will not be required to quarantine unless they later develop systems. Quarantine will also not be required if both the COVID-positive person and close probable contact were wearing a mask during the period of exposure.

To read the district’s full ‘Continuity of Services Plan’ for 2021-2022, click here.

Read Mangrum’s full letter below:

August 12, 2021

Parents and Guardians,

I hope this letter finds you and your family well and preparing to enjoy the upcoming school year.  Our faculty and staff members have worked tirelessly in recent weeks to get ready for the return of students to our hallways and classrooms.  As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be an issue that must be addressed and planned for as we make final preparations for the school year.  Elkins School District released its Continuity of Services/Ready for Learning Plan for the 21-22 school year in July.  The plan in its entirety can be found at the following link https://www.elkinsdistrict.org/533163_3.  

As you can see in the plan, Elkins School District is not currently mandating that face masks be worn inside of school buildings.  Students and staff are encouraged to do so, but are not required to wear a face covering.  What we learned last year is that the biggest percentage of lost instructional time for students came from quarantine periods, not from actually contracting the virus. 

There are two available avenues for Probable Close Contacts (PCC’s) to avoid the quarantine period this year that were not available in the 20-21 school year.  One is to be fully vaccinated.  Fully vaccinated individuals that are identified as PCC’s are not required to quarantine unless they later develop symptoms.  The second is for both the COVID-positive individual and the PCC to  be wearing a facemask during the period of exposure.  

Due to the quarantine rules Elkins Schools will be altering student seating situations for the school year.  Students that choose to wear a mask will be seated in a section of the classroom with only other students in the room that choose to wear a mask.  Then a section of at least six feet of vacant space will separate masked students from the section of the room where students who choose not to wear a mask will be seated.  This will drastically reduce the chances of masked students being forced to quarantine during the school year.  All students, whether wearing a mask or not, will receive the same educational experience.  We are trying to reduce the number of quarantined students as much as possible.  Please remember that while face coverings are not required they are strongly encouraged.

Go Elks!

Jeremy Mangrum
Superintendent 

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