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story.lead_photo.caption Kids sit against the glass in the cafeteria between classes at North Little Rock High School on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Stephen Swofford) - Photo by Stephen Swofford

NORTH LITTLE ROCK -- The School District's plans for the coming school year include requiring masks and giving every student and staff member three washable masks, the school's supervisor of nurses told the School Board last week.

Amanda Stuckey, who is a registered nurse, spoke during a workshop on the safety plan that the district created to help protect staff members and students during the covid-19 pandemic.

"Our goal is to provide as much as possible a safe experience for students and staff upon re-entry," she said.

Stuckey said health officials have found that the best defense against the virus is face coverings and hand washing, which the school district plans to emphasize.

"The district will provide face masks for every student and staff member," she said. "Three washable masks for all, and we will have thousands and thousands of disposable masks, as well."

Stuckey said exceptions to the mask requirement will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

"Social distancing will be observed as much as possible, but this means they might be closer than 6 feet," she said. "That is why we are encouraging the face coverings."

School officials said they have ordered three washable cloth masks for every staff member and student in the 8,000-student school district, 1,000 boxes of gloves, M95 masks for staff members who need them, more than 30,000 disposable masks, face shields, disposable barrier gowns, protective eyewear and sanitizing equipment.

Interim Superintendent Keith McGee said the school district also has bought mobile hand-sanitizing stations that will be used at every building.

Stuckey said the supplies that the district has ordered are supposed to be available before Aug. 7.

Classrooms and cafeterias also are being designed to provide as much space as possible among diners.

"Classrooms will look different this year," Stuckey said. "This may mean students are farther away from the teacher, or desks all facing the same way, or if they are at a table then transparent dividers might separate students."

Stuckey also said beanbags and other items in gathering places, such as the library, are probably going to be removed over safety concerns.

Board President Dorothy Williams said she noticed that the schools have already implemented barriers at hand-washing stations and fountains.

A hand-washing schedule also will be implemented.

"What I am suggesting is that the hand-washing will be increased," Stuckey said. "My suggestion is that the children upon entry will be hand washing, as well as after bathroom use, before and after recess, before and after meals, and after leaving every day."

Stuckey also said there will be a response plan for when a student or staff member begins showing covid-19 symptoms.

"Any student who shows signs of covid-19 must see a nurse," she said. "The nurse will assess them for the symptoms, and if they show positive symptoms they will be masked immediately and placed in a supervised isolation area."

The nurse will contact a parent and guardian, and recommend that the student get tested, and the staff will contact the Arkansas Department of Health and document a tracking system.

"Once that person tests positive for covid, then we will wait for ADH guidance before they are allowed back into the school," Stuckey said.

Board member Lizbeth Huggins asked Stuckey what the plan would be if a parent refuses to get the child tested. Stuckey said the student wouldn't be allowed back at school for 14 days.

District officials also mentioned hiring an interim director who would oversee the proposed virtual academy.

"As of right now 2,000 students [are interested in the virtual academy]," said Jacob Smith, the district's executive director of human resources. "This is phase one, and it's coming at us quickly."

McGee said consideration for the position will be given to in-house candidates first.

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