Students, faculty, staff and visitors at Arkadelphia Public Schools will be required to wear a face covering beginning Thursday, Jan. 6. Superintendent Karla Neathery made the announcement Wednesday afternoon on social media, citing a spike in positive cases of Covid-19 among students.
The Arkadelphia Board of Education has given Neathery the authority to make the decision at a moment’s notice. The district has been monitoring a map of the state’s school districts, released by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, to make the determination. The Arkadelphia School District, according to ACHI, has 100 or more active cases. That number has more than tripled in the past 24 hours, putting the district from yellow (20-29 cases) to purple (100 or more cases).
Dr. Kenneth Harris inquired during a school board meeting Tuesday if the district was monitoring the surge in cases. Neathery reiterated the board’s recent decision to rely on the ACHI map, and that the mask mandate would be reinstated once the ACHI map showed the school district’s cases to be orange (30-49 cases). That map, Neathery said, was last updated on Dec. 27.
Addressing the news media in the audience, board president Casey Motl noted the ACHI map was being monitored. “We’re watching that ACHI map,” Motl said. “That is our trigger. [When] it rolls to orange, we’ll return to our indoor [mask] policy.”
The school board voted 5-1 in October to lift the district’s mask mandate, with Ida Tramble casting the only dissenting vote.