ESHS shuts down athletic facilities for two weeks

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

By Samantha Jones

The Eureka Springs School District has closed its high school athletic facilities for two weeks after students came in contact with another student who tested positive for COVID-19.

Superintendent Bryan Pruitt said Monday that a student went to Florida with a church group and visited friends at the athletic facilities upon returning to Eureka Springs. When the student tested positive for COVID-19, Pruitt said, the school immediately shut down the facilities for two weeks. The facilities include areas where students were practicing for volleyball and basketball, Pruitt said. 

“Yes, it is one of our students,” Pruitt said. “No, it’s not an athlete, but he was up here around some of the athletes. That’s why we did that.”

Pruitt said the district is taking all possible safety precautions to prevent the transmission of the virus. 

“We listen to the state guidelines and we just decided to be proactive on that and shut it down for two weeks to make sure everybody is OK,” Pruitt said. “Then we’ll start up any kind of athletic events. It’s not worth somebody getting sick and spreading that and somebody getting more seriously sick. It’s just not worth it to chance that.”

As the district prepares to welcome students for the 2020-21 school year, Pruitt said, health and safety is the number one priority. Pruitt said the district meets regularly with the state health department, “probably twice a week” to stay updated on the virus. The district is looking to hire someone to be a point of contact for everything related to the virus, Pruitt said.

“We’d like to hire an LPN to help us out on that,” Pruitt said. “They’ll be our go-to person on this.”

Pruitt said the district is working on plans for getting back to school, offering a blended learning option so all students can feel comfortable. Half of the students will come to the school on the first day back, Pruitt said, followed by the other half the next day. 

“The reason behind that is we can kind of work with them on what our expectations are and what we want to do for social distancing and how to act,” Pruitt said. “We want to be as normal as possible when our kids return, but we’re still going to be safe.”

Pruitt said students will be encouraged to practice social distancing and will be required to wear face masks.

“There’s some debate on wearing masks if you’re 10 years old or younger. We’re probably going to have everyone wear a mask who goes here to keep everyone safe,” he said.

Families will sit next to each other on buses, Pruitt said, where everyone will be required to wear a mask. 

“Parents can bring them to school, too,” Pruitt said. 

It’s a confusing time to work in education, Pruitt said, with seemingly new challenges every day. 

“We’re going through checklists and trying to check off the boxes of whether we’ve covered this or that, knowing when we’re going back that we have to be flexible,” Pruitt said. “There’s some things that might not work and we’ll drop back and do something that will work if it doesn’t. I want people to know that it is a pandemic, so we don’t have all the answers.”

Many parents aren’t sure if they are sending their kids back to school, Pruitt said, and he understands that. 

“If you have a child who has asthma or diabetes … it makes you think, ‘Do I want to send my child or not?’ ” Pruitt said. “And I get that. Then there’s some parents who say, ‘Hey, I’m a hairdresser. I’m not a teacher. I want my kid there at school.’ ”

Pruitt encouraged parents to contact the district about their plans as soon as possible, saying that will help the district plan what happens when school begins. 

“But I get it if you don’t know yet,” Pruitt said. “Whatever happens, whatever cards we’re dealt with … we’re going to monitor, we’re going to adjust and we’re going to provide the best education possible.”

In the end, Pruitt said, it’s all going to pan out.

“Just work with us and our teachers,” Pruitt said. “Our staff has been just unbelievable in trying to get prepped. They’ve completely changed their teaching methods and everyone else is trying to keep things clean and disinfected.”

The district cares about the health and safety of the families in Eureka Springs more than anything else, Pruitt said.

“We want to be as normal as possible and let them know we care about them and we want them to learn and we want the best for them,” Pruitt said. “We’re going to figure it out.”

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