County’s covid count doubles again as school year begins
Ozark County has had an increase of 20 positive covid-19 cases since last week’s Times was published. The sharp increase in the county’s total of cases, which stood at 39 at press time Tuesday, is the biggest weekly increase since the pandemic started earlier this year. It coincides with the start of the school year – and also with a number of cases reported at an area church.
Of the 20 new cases, nine were identified as either faculty, staff or students in the Gainesville School District. One case was confirmed in a Dora School student.
Also, Mammoth Assembly of God Church south of Gainesville said Friday in a Facebook post that it is dismissing all services until Sunday, Sept. 13 “due to some members testing positive for Covid.”
In late July, Bakersfield School identified a positive case in a student athlete who had reportedly participated in a basketball event, but the district has not had any positive cases since that time. Classes started at Bakersfield Tuesday, Aug. 25.
Lutie, Thornfield and Mark Twain Districts have not announced any covid positive cases so far this year.
Gainesville School District
Nine cases in first week
Gainesville school has been in session since Monday, Aug. 24. By Monday, Aug. 31, nine positive cases of covid-19 had been reported in the school by the Ozark County Health Department: five staff members and four students.
Letters went out to students’ families saying the district “is in constant communication” with OCHD and is following the health department’s guidance.
The first case was identified last Wednesday, Aug. 26. The district’s letter to families announcing the case said it occurred in an elementary staff member.
The next day, Aug. 27, the school sent out another district-wide notification saying a support staff member and a student who were already quarantined had also received a positive test result for covid-19.
The staff member was wearing a face mask while at school and “a minimal risk of exposure to other employees and students is expected,” an email sent to parents said.
On Monday, two more letters went out. One notified families that three staff members and three students had tested positive for the virus. The second letter said the school is conducting “deep cleaning of areas and surfaces” throughout the campus and that foggers are brought in each afternoon to kill bacteria and viruses.
The letter assured families that “teachers and staff are wearing masks when social distancing is not possible [and] are working overtime to ensure the school is a safe and healthy learning environment for all.”
The letter also said, “Neither the health department nor Gainesville schools can provide detailed information to the general public regarding any exposure” but added that the district would “continue to be transparent as positive COVID-19 cases are reported.” An earlier letter said, “The District cannot release the name” of those with positive covid cases.
Monday’s letter asked the Gainesville community to “please be supportive,” adding that “our administration, teachers, and staff are doing the best we can.”
The letter said, “We are simply asking for encouragement, not negativity. We love your kids and this community and only want what is best for both.”
Readers were directed to call Gainesville superintendent Justin Gilmore at 417-679-4260 with any questions or concerns.
Dora School District
One case in a week
The Dora School District, which also started classes on Aug. 24, announced its first confirmed covid-19 case in a student on Friday, Aug. 28. The post said the health department followed contact tracing protocols, and parents and guardians of “close contacts” would be notified individually.
“The health department said it is safe to resume class on Aug, 31, 2020. We are taking every precaution to keep our students and staff safe while keeping the school open,” a post on the Dora R-III School District Facebook page said.
Another post, on the Dora Lady Falcons Facebook page, said the school’s junior high baseball and softball games have been canceled this week due to covid risk.
Like the county’s other school districts, Dora started the school year after announcing a covid-aware reopening plan. Dora’s plan laid out three operating levels based on the prevalence of covid in the school and the community. It opened at level one, which requires temperature checks for those entering the school building.
After the covid case was announced Friday, the district moved to level two, which specified that students must report to a designated area upon arrival, lunches will be eaten inside classrooms instead of the cafeteria, visitors will not be allowed inside school buildings, and movement of the students will be limited.
If the number of covid cases increases and the district moves to level three, the school will transition to off-campus learning through packets or online measures.
The Dora School Board decided at its July 28 meeting that masks would be optional for all students, faculty and staff, and therefore are not required at any level. The school does encourage students who are riding buses to wear a mask, but face coverings are not required for bus riders.
Commenting on the Facebook post that announced the positive case, one parent suggested that the school require masks. Three other parents responded, saying they hope the school won’t require them.
Bakersfield School District
No cases since school started,
but one in July
Bakersfield started school Tuesday, Aug. 25. As of Monday afternoon, no additional cases of covid in students or staff had been announced since classes started.
Earlier the district announced that a Bakersfield student athlete had tested positive in the last week of July, about a month before school started for the year. The athlete reportedly participated in a basketball shoot-out competition at Couch School.
Bakersfield requires masks for all staff and faulty members. Students in sixth through 12th grades are required to wear masks or face coverings in hallways and anytime they are not able to social distance (including in classrooms). All students must wear masks while riding buses, and students who are involved in sports and other activities, such as music and Quiz Bowl events, are also required to wear masks on buses to and from school on the day of the event, and to and from games, as well as all day at school before events except when running or playing an instrument or eating / drinking. Athletes are to wear masks when sitting on the bench during games if social distancing is not possible.
Lutie, Mark Twain and Thornfield
No cases have been announced
Lutie, Thornfield and Mark Twain school districts have not announced cases in their students, faculty or staff so far this year.
Thornfield and Mark Twain started school Monday, Aug. 24.
Thornfield school district does not require masks in students or staff, but is focusing on social distancing and holding classes outside as much as possible.
Mark Twain requires staff members to wear masks when they are unable to social distance. Students riding buses are also required to wear masks if they are unable to sit 6 feet apart.
Lutie began classes Tuesday, Aug. 11. Lutie requires all staff and faculty to wear masks, and students in seventh through 12th grades must wear masks when they are unable to social distance, including when switching classes or in classrooms.
Ava School District
One student and one staff member
Ava School District, which also began classes Monday, Aug. 24, announced Sunday that it had been notified a middle school student had tested positive for covid. The district was also notified the week before, on Aug. 20, that a middle school staff member had tested positive.
The staff and student have been quarantined following health department guidelines, the school said.
West Plains School District
No public alerts regarding
positive covid cases
The Howell County Health Department announced over the weekend that “nearly all of the area schools [in Howell County] have experienced cases and/or significant exposures. A number of students and staff have been placed on isolation or quarantine. West Plains R-7 is experiencing the greatest impact, having a considerable number of students being placed on quarantine due to exposures to confirmed cases.”
Howell County schools include the Fairview, Glenwood, Howell Valley, Junction Hill, Richards, West Plains and Willow Springs districts.
The West Plains School District announced that it will not notify the public when staff or students test positive. The policy is published on the school’s website:
“Only those individuals who are deemed at risk of exposure by our local health department will be notified. We will not send district-wide notifications for positive or presumptive positive cases. A child or staff member with potential exposure will be notified by the health department, according to health department guidelines. The only exception . . . would be in the case of a community or school-wide event where contact tracing could not happen.”
Mountain Home, Arkansas,
One case in a week
The Mountain Home, Arkansas, School District has a webpage that provides information regarding covid exposures. The website said Monday the district has had one covid case since school began Aug. 24.
On Aug. 31, an employee of the Hackler Intermediate School, which includes students in grades 3-5, tested positive. Two additional employees and one student were identified as probable close contacts and were contacted directly. The intermediate school also had one other positive case, identified on July 13.
Four additional cases in students or teachers attending the school district were reported before class began. The four cases were never on campus, according to the website.
Photos accompanying an Aug. 8 story in The Baxter Bulletin showed Mountain Home High School football players and coaches wearing masks during a pre-season practice.