July 21, 2020
Parents and Guardians,
As I am sure you are aware, there have been two major announcements made by Governor Asa Hutchinson during the last two weeks that had a direct impact on Elkins Public Schools. The first was a mandate that no public school may start classes for the 2020-2021 school year prior to August 24, 2020. The second major declaration came late last week when Governor Hutchinson issued an order that mandated all Arkansas residents age 10 and over to wear face coverings/masks in all public settings when appropriate physical distancing is not possible.
After gathering feedback from our planning team we are ready to announce that the first day of school for all students both onsite and virtual will be August 26, 2020. The Governor’s announcement that changed the school start date was unexpected, and is requiring us to adjust the entire 20-21 school calendar. That process is underway and the complete school calendar will be posted to the district website once all modifications have been made.
With regard to face coverings/masks we have also been forced to adjust the protocol that was released in our back to school plan a few weeks ago. In compliance with the statewide mandate, all staff and students in grades 3-12 will be required to wear face masks/coverings when physical distancing is not possible until otherwise directed. Students in grades K-2 will be allowed to wear face coverings/masks if they choose, but will not be required to wear masks at school. There is one exception to this which will be while riding the school bus. All students in grades K-12 will be required to wear face coverings while riding the bus.
Again, while at school, only students in grades 3-12 will be required to wear face coverings when physical distancing is not possible. You may be thinking exactly how long will my child(ren) be required to wear the face covering? I cannot give you an exact count to the minute, but I am confident that we will be able to provide at least six feet between students in their classroom environment. This means that all students will be appropriately distanced while in the classroom, and will not be required to wear the face covering while seated at their desk. Also, students cannot wear face coverings when they are eating and drinking during breakfast and lunch times. Essentially the only time that we will not be able to provide appropriate physical distancing is during transition times from one class to another. During these times students will be required to wear face coverings unless they are otherwise exempted from doing so. Students will not be asked to wear masks during recess, physical education class, or any other time when they are physically exerting themselves. It is estimated that the average student in grades 3-12 will be required to wear the face covering for a total of 20-30 minutes over the course of the eight-hour school day. This estimate does not include the time spent on the bus for bus riders.
We realize that this is a substantive change to what was initially released in our back to school plan. This change may be one that you feel warrants a change in your choice for onsite or virtual school that was submitted prior to July 10, 2020. Due to this modification, we will be allowing you to alter your choice if you feel that is necessary. We are asking that you call or email your child’s building office by July 30, 2020 to notify the principal if you want to change your selection for the upcoming school year.