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story.lead_photo.caption The Cathedral of the Ozarks on the campus of John Brown University is shown in this photo.

SILOAM SPRINGS -- Positive cases of covid-19 have been reported in both the School District and John Brown University since school began.

The School District had 11 active cases of covid-19, including 10 students and one staff member, as of Sept. 6, according to the district's website, siloamschools.com. JBU had 11 active cases among students and none among staff members as of Aug. 5, said Julie Gumm, director of marketing and communication for the district.

Overall, 47 new covid-19 cases in Siloam Springs and 46 in the larger geographical area of the School District have been reported in the past two weeks, according to the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement website, achi.net.

The School District, which has 4,208 students and 602 employees, has had a total of 16 positive cases since school began Aug. 24, the district website states.

Eight staff members and 119 students have been identified as probable close contacts and were in quarantine Sept. 5, the school website stated. The website is updated each morning with numbers from the previous day, according to Assistant Superintendent Shane Patrick. As of Sept. 5, none of the probable close contacts have tested positive, he said.

No classrooms or programs have been closed because of the virus, Patrick said. Keeping accurate seating chart records of where students are at all times and social distancing has limited the number of students who have had to be quarantined through the process, he said.

Contact tracing in the school has gone well so far, but there have been some adjustments because it is a new process, Patrick said.

"We believe we have refined the process so that we keep our students and staff as safe as possible, while identifying those that need to be informed of any possible exposure," he said.

It's important for students and parents to continue to communicate with the district by contacting building level administration if they have an issue outside of school where a family member or a student has tested positive or been placed on quarantine by the Arkansas Department of Health, Patrick said.

"Our families have done a great job of that so far and we appreciate it and we would like them to continue that," he said.

JBU has had 26 cumulative cases, but 14 of the cases occurred before classes began Aug. 17, Gumm said.

Of the 11 John Brown University students with active cases, only two were isolating on campus as of Sept. 5 and the other nine were off campus, which means they either already lived off campus or had gone home during their isolation period, Gumm said.

One faculty member was on Arkansas Department of Health directed quarantine and 29 students were on preliminary observation awaiting ADH contact tracing, according to the university website, jbu.edu.

Of the school's 1,247 traditional undergraduate students, 894 live on campus, she said. Despite the pandemic, the school had an 86 percent retention rate from last year, the highest in more than 15 years, she said.

The new social distancing and safety measures the university put in place have been going well, Gumm said.

"There is a real desire of students to stay on campus and stay in face-to-face classes, so that is an overriding thing that is helping students obey the guidelines," she said.

The university delayed playing competitive fall athletics as an added safety measure and because many of the other schools in its conference are not playing, Gumm said. Teams are still conditioning and practicing in small groups. On Sept. 21, the university will reevaluate whether to move into larger groups or scrimmage, she said.

The athletics office is working on intramural sports and officials are thinking outside the box to provide safe activities for students, such as a chalk art festival planned for this weekend, Gumm said.

Janelle Jessen may be reached by email at [email protected]

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