- Fort Smith School District
COVID-19 Update from Dr. Brubaker, Superintendent
A COVID-19 Update from Dr. Brubaker, Superintendent
Thank you for your hard work as we continue to work through an unusually challenging year. Our success in meeting the needs of students up to this point can be attributed to our outstanding faculty and staff with the support of the families and community that we serve.
With the number of COVID-19 cases rising across the country and in our area, the district continues to promote safety and foster academic growth for our students. Because learning often occurs most successfully in a classroom, our best option is to continue to provide on-site instruction as long as it is feasible to do so. Continuing to provide instruction on-site also ensures that students continue to have access to the food, social services, and safe spaces that they need.
Some of the most effective steps that we are taking to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission are preventative. Overall, students and staff members appear to be doing a good job of wearing masks as required by district policy and distancing themselves from others to the extent that it is practical. Regular hand-washing and the use of hand sanitizer are also strongly encouraged at school. Cleaning also continues to be a high priority in our district. All of the schools are on a rotation for treatment with hospital-grade disinfectant once every two days during evening hours. In order to ensure an ongoing supply of the disinfectant solution used in our misters and foggers, we have utilized CARES Act funds to purchase the equipment needed to make it. The potency of the solution is tested according to the manufacturer’s instructions prior to use.
Our own data suggests that these prevention practices are working well within our schools. Of the 2,386 close contacts who have been subject to quarantine in FSPS since July, twenty-three (23) have later tested positive. This suggests a school transmission rate of 0.96%. The body of research that supports wearing masks to prevent COVID-19 continues to grow. Updated guidance from the CDC indicates that wearing a mask helps to control the spread of COVID-19 by providing both a means to “block exhaled virus” and provide “filtration for personal protection.”
The spread of COVID-19 outside of school is complicating efforts to keep campuses open in order to serve students. This may be because our schools have adopted safety measures that are not as widely and consistently applied in other settings within our community. At some point, conditions may require that a classroom, school, or the entire district pivot to online instruction for a period of time. The FSPS document “Preparing to Pivot” explains the standards that will apply if on-site instruction has to be suspended. It is important to distinguish these plans from the emergency remote instruction that occurred during the spring of 2020. In order to keep all students on track for the next grade or graduation, new learning will have to continue. Student progress will have to be measured and reported using grades. Extensive parental involvement will continue to be critically important in order to ensure that students learning from home remain engaged and continue to experience success. Grades from the first quarter indicate that students who are learning at home are at significantly greater risk of failing one or more classes, which at the secondary level can have significant implications for graduation. Work will continue with students and their families to address these concerns.
Like many school districts, another one of our greatest challenges is maintaining staffing levels as the number of staff members subject to quarantine fluctuates. The vast majority of these personnel are not ill but are not allowed to be at work for safety reasons. We are working to temporarily increase the rate of pay for substitute teachers in order to adapt to these conditions.
We are often asked what parents and community members can do to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. As Thanksgiving approaches, please take steps to protect your health and that of others. Some health experts partly attribute the recent increases in cases nationwide to Halloween activities. The CDC has published guidelines for holiday celebrations. Please practice good prevention strategies at home and in the community:
Wear a mask.
Practice social distancing.
Wash your hands frequently.
Avoid settings where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is greater.
Gracias por su gran trabajo, ya que seguimos trabajando durante un año inusualmente difícil. Nuestro éxito en satisfacer las necesidades de los estudiantes hasta este punto puede atribuirse a nuestra destacada facultad y personal con el apoyo de las familias y la comunidad a la que servimos.
● Use una máscara.
● Practique el distanciamiento social.
● Lávese las manos con frecuencia.
● Evite los ajustes en los que el riesgo de transmisión COVID-19 sea mayor.