Fort Smith Public Schools continues to lead the state in number of COVID-19. On Monday (Sept. 21), the Arkansas Department of Health showed the Fort Smith school district with 151 cumulative cases of the virus in the student and employee population from June 15 to present.
Of those cases, 23 have been faculty and staff and 127 have been students, or 0.9% of the student population, which was listed as 14,136 for the 2019-20 school year, according to the state’s website. The district has 25 active cases.
In comparison, the larger Little Rock school district has 92 cumulative cases, 15 faculty and staff and 77 students, which is 0.35% of the 21,472 student population reported in the 2019-20 school year. The district has 20 active cases. The Springdale school district has 135 total cases. Of those 23 are faculty and staff and 111 are students, or 0.5% of the 22,164 student population. The district has 29 active cases.
As of Monday, Sebastian County had 285 active COVID 19 cases, 276 of which are confirmed and 9 are probable cases. Since March, the school has had 3,459 total cases of COVID, of those 3,420 are confirmed and 39 are probable. There have been 45 confirmed COVID-related deaths and 11 probable deaths.
Several requests were made, but FSPS Superintendent Dr. Doug Brubaker was not made available for interviews regarding COVID-19 cases in the district.
However, the district has not shown any specific trends among different age groups or schools, said Christina Williams, FSPS coordinator of public information. Cumulatively, Northside High School and Kimmons Junior High have reported higher numbers of student positives, she added.
Northside High School closed Sept. 1 to be thoroughly disinfected after several people who had recently been inside the buildings tested positive for COVID-19. The NHS Grizzly Football Team paused practices Sept. 6 because of concerns related to COVID-19 exposure. The team canceled their Sept. 11 game with the Greenwood Bulldogs. The team was cleared to return to its normal football schedule beginning Sept. 14. The team played Moore Sept. 18. Originally, Northside was scheduled to play Har-Ber High School, but the game was removed from the schedule due to concerns related to COVID-19 exposure, the release said.
Northside High School Senior Night will be rescheduled on Oct. 23 versus North Little Rock. The release noted that team members still in quarantine under the direction of ADH did not return to the normal schedule with the rest of the team.
“It does not appear that a high number of students become positive because they were in close contact with a positive student or staff member on campus. This may indicate that transmission is happening in social settings outside school or through family household contact,” Williams said in an email.
She noted, “The nature of the spread of COVID makes it difficult to know what circumstances have resulted in the positive cases that we are seeing.”
To continue to combat the virus, FSPS workers clean buildings daily and have increased the use of fogging machines, Williams said. The district’s facilities team also has misters that are used to disinfect touchpoints throughout the buildings.
Students and staff are required to wear masks while at school. Elementary school classes remain in cohort groups during recess and meals so that contact tracing, should it become necessary, can focus on smaller numbers of potential close contacts, she said.
“Staff and student safety remain a priority and focus throughout this pandemic,” she said.