Following new guidance from the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Department of Education, the Marion School District is updating its Covid-19 safety guidelines.
Most of the district’s guidance remains unchanged, including the encouragement for all eligible individuals to be fully vaccinated, including the booster.
“We are grateful to everybody who has already received their Covid vaccinations,” said Dr. Glen Fenter, Marion superintendent. “For more than a year now, vaccination has been the best tool available to us to control this pandemic. The vast majority of those suffering the worst effects of this virus are those who are unvaccinated. It doesn’t have to be this way. The vaccine has been approved for use in children ages 5 and up since late last year, and we continue to encourage all families to take advantage of this.”
With the Omicron variant surging across the country over the past several weeks, the district experienced its own surge in Covid cases, with nearly 500 students and staff members testing positive in the first five weeks of the semester. While cases now appear to be on the decline, overall infection rates are still high in the area, according to Kelly Fogleman, Marion School District school health coordinator.
“The overall numbers right now are similar to what we saw during the Delta wave last fall. There’s still a lot of cases out there,” Fogleman said. “Everyone needs to remain cautious.”
Based on state guidance, the district is continuing the following Covid-19 mitigation strategies:
- Promoting Covid-19 vaccinations
- Continuing indoor facemask policy during normal school hours
- Encouraging physical distancing when feasible
- Telling students to stay home if sick
- Encouraging daily self-screening of staff/students before coming to school
- Promoting good hand hygiene
- Daily disinfection of surfaces
- Proper ventilation
- Isolation for Covid-19 positive individuals for a minimum of 5 days
- Continuing "sick student protocol" for ill students that come to the nurse's office
The only change in the district’s strategy will be in contact tracing. Following a new directive from the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Department of Education, the district will no longer conduct contact tracing on its campuses. The district will, however, continue to quarantine unvaccinated students who have a positive case of Covid-19 within their home when it's reported by their parent/guardian. Students reported by their parent/guardian as a close contact will need to be quarantined for five days from the last date of exposure, unless the student is fully vaccinated and showing no symptoms of illness.
Absences for Covid isolation and/or quarantine will continue to be excused and makeup work will be done per handbook policy.
Complete information about the district’s Covid response can be found online at https://www.msd3.org/page/covid-information-page. This includes testing and quarantine data, which is updated daily. For complete guidance offered to schools from the Arkansas Department of Education, visit here: https://dese.ade.arkansas.gov/Offices/communications/arkansas-ready-for-learning