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Nashville school lifts mask mandate

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By John R. Schirmer

News-Leader staff

With Covid-19 cases declining, the Nashville School District lifted its mask mandate for students, faculty and staff effective last Friday, Oct. 8, according to Superintendent Doug Graham.

“I visited all five school board members individually and told them that if numbers stayed low, we would remove the mandate and address it Sept. 18” at the monthly board meeting, Graham said Monday.

As of Monday morning, there were three student positives and four student close contacts in the district, according to Graham.  There were no teacher positives and no close contacts.

The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement moved the district out of its “red zone” for high numbers of cases and placed it into the “yellow zone” for fewer cases.

“The positivity rate at school is less than a half percent,” Graham said.

Board members are “in support” of removing the mask mandate, Graham said. “If numbers start trending upward, we can go back and implement it again. As long as we stay in the range we’ve been in the last 10 days, we can have the masks off.”

If the district has “low numbers, no masks. If quarantines go up a lot, we’ll put the masks back in place,” Graham said. “Anybody with reservations is welcome to continue wearing masks.”

The three positive cases and four close contacts in the district “were all identified before we lifted the mask mandate. They are finishing quarantines.”

Virus cases have shown a steady decline in recent weeks. On Oct. 4, there was one teacher positive with no teacher contacts. The district reported seven student positives a week ago, with 11 student close contacts. Student numbers were the same as those on Sept. 27.

On Sept. 20,, there were nine student positives and one teacher positive, along with 11 student close contacts and two teacher close contacts. Those numbers were down from the previous week.

Earlier this month, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced a pilot program for new quarantine guidelines for schools. 

Graham said he was interested at the time but “after seeing how it works, I’m not as fired up as I was. We’re in a holding mode on 

the pilot program,” he said.

Russellville, Bentonville, Springdale and Cabot are participating in the program, Graham said.

The pilot program would only affect those who test positive with direct contact while at school, according to Graham. “Any positive cases from out of school would quarantine as usual. If someone gets to be a close contact in class, the person would stay in school with Covid-19 tests every other day for 10 days.”

Graham and district Point of Contact Rick Rebsamen say that almost all Covid cases come to the school from the community instead of being transmitted student to student on campus.

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