Open House for Westwind School for Performing Arts tonight, School buses return to roads, a Q&A for parents on to how to navigate school this year, plus news and sports headlines
Welcome to Arkansas Newsroom, a bundled newsletter covering news and sports in central Arkansas. For some answers to frequently asked questions, click here.
Subscribe to the site by clicking the button below …
Note to subscribers: An annual or monthly subscription is billed to your debit or credit card as ARKANSAS.SUBSTACK.COM and if you have questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading and subscribing!
With school starting next week, districts across the state are passing mask mandates for the upcoming school year. Among the districts that will have mandates in place are Pulaski County Special, the Academics Plus system, that includes Maumelle Charter, and North Little Rock.
And it isn’t just masks, the Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit concert this Saturday in Little Rock is requiring proof of vaccination to be admitted. Read more about it by clicking here.
National polling shows mask mandates are widely favored across the country and to read more, click here.
In my two and a half years on the council, I believe this might have been our longest agenda to date. That said, let’s dive into the topics of this week’s meeting. By Chad Gardner and read more by clicking Maumelle: City Council report
Arkansas Governor’s School announces Class of 2021: Graduates from Maumelle Charter were: Jordan Bures, Greg Febock, Miracle Jones, Maxwell St. Onge and Kennedy Williams. Graduates from Maumelle High School were: Eva Casto, Geronimo Mckee, Geneva Millikan, Jakobi Oliver and Kory Putnam. Graduates from North Little Rock High School were: Olivia Harris, Karrington Jones and Sam Montgomery while its associated Center of Excellence graduates were: Niko Brookins, Kevin Lozano, Angela Nguyen, Chris Orr and Dasha Young.
BASEBALL ON BROADWAY is the weekly newsletter that spotlights the Arkansas Travelers. It is published on Monday and click the link above to give it a read.
Neal Moore is taking the week off.
The inaction of both the Executive and Legislative Branches of State Government in the face of a Statewide Public Health Emergency is far beyond my ability to either comprehend or tolerate. It would seem the very essence of common sense to at least delegate to the local School Districts the authority to mandate masks in public schools and vaccinations where age appropriate. Something must be done to curtail this surge that surely will now affect our most vulnerable school children in ever increasing numbers.
Is the lust for Re-election, the need for Power and the fear of the populace so great that it prohibits the speaking of medical and scientific truths? Is it so addictive that it blinds the eye to the bravery and needs of our Nurses, Physicians, and Teachers? Have we learned nothing from history?
During the recent Special Session not one Bill was proposed to so much as offer hazardous pay bonuses to these Arkansans on the front lines. This despite a significant financial surplus in the State’s Treasury. Not even a formal Legislative Resolution of Appreciation for these workers could be mustered.
Mark Twain once opined that Politicians and Diapers must be changed often and for the same reason.
Unfortunately the current “do nothing” politicians in our State bring this maxim home in a devastatingly vivid manner.
Remember who they are and Vote ‘em out.
The Westwind School for Performing Arts will have an open house at 6 p.m. tonight, followed by a ribbon-cutting at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, which is also the first day of classes.
The new school is located at 7318 Windsong Drive in North Little Rock and expected to attend the ribbon cutting are Maumelle Mayor Caleb Norris, North Little Rock Mayor Terry Hartwick, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin along with other elected officials.
The school will have an arts-infused curriculum and Theresa Timmons serves as executive director while Chastity M. McNeary will be the Principal. The school is for grades 6th through 8th.
For more information, the school’s website can be viewed by clicking here.
With school starting back next week for the Pulaski County Special and North Little Rock school districts, it means that the buses are back as well.
And there’s lots of buses and lots of bus routes for each district.
Jessica Duff, a spokeswoman for PCSSD, said, there’s approximately 7,100 students in the roughly 12,000 student district who ride the bus.
“We operate 133 route buses daily,” Duff said while the “average number of student riders per bus is 45.”
Dustin Barnes, a spokesman for the North Little Rock district said there’s “about 1,600 students” riding the bus out of the district’s enrollment count of roughly 9,000.
North Little Rock operates 40 buses daily, Barnes added with the average number of riders being 34.
Both districts also operate additional buses to transport students for “activities” and “athletes home from practice,” Duff added.
In PCSSD, Duff said, “bus drivers are district employees in the transportation department,” while in North Little Rock, it is a little bit more complicated, but not by much.
“We have employees who only drive buses,” Barnes said. “And we have some who have a primary role in the district who also drive a bus. We call them dual driver.”
An example of a dual driver would be a district employee who also serves as a campus supervisor, in-school suspension coordinator, teacher assistant, etc., Barnes said and noted they are paid hourly for the bus driving.
All bus drivers in each district get at least 25 hours of annual safety and skills training, with North Little Rock bus drivers getting an additional eight hours for a total of 33.
PCSSD bus routes
North Little Rock School District bus routes
By Michelle Andrews for Kaiser Health News
When kids head back to school this fall, for some it will be the first time they’ve been in a real classroom with other students since the pandemic began. Even if they attended classes in person last year, the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant of covid-19 will require a new safety calculation, particularly for parents of kids younger than 12, who can’t yet get a vaccine.
“You have a confluence of three unfortunate events,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “You have a group of children who are unlikely to have a vaccine available to them when they go back to school; you have the delta variant, which is far more contagious; and you have the winter months, with a cold, dry climate where the virus can spread more easily.”
Nearly all schools offered at least some in-person learning by the end of the last school year, and many schools plan to bring kids back full time this fall. And in more than a dozen states, schools are required to offer in-person classes either full or part time, according to an analysis in June by EducationWeek.
Parents have questions about how to navigate this new landscape. Here are answers to some common concerns.
Q: What should parents do if their child gets what seems like a bad cold, but they’re worried it could be covid?
It’s likely your school has protocols in place for handling these situations. But in general, if a child is sick, especially with symptoms of an upper respiratory infection like coughing or fever, keep them home until symptoms subside, doctors said. You should be doing that anyway.
“With the amount of covid that’s around, parents should definitely keep the child out of school and see their primary care doctor to make sure they don’t have covid,” said Dr. Tina Tan, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
You may want to keep a few rapid covid tests at home as well. Keep in mind that the results are not completely reliable.
According to an analysis of 48 studies that evaluated rapid antigen tests’ accuracy, among people who had covid, the tests correctly identified the infection in 72% of those with symptoms but in only 58% of those without symptoms. Among uninfected people, the tests accurately ruled out covid in at least 99% of people, whether or not they had symptoms.
“It’s important to have the ability to do rapid testing,” said Dr. Sara Bode, a pediatrician who directs school health services at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and helped write the American Academy of Pediatrics’ covid guidance for schools. “If positive, it allows the school to quickly identify, quarantine and contact-trace. If negative, it allows the child quickly back in school without losing … instructional time.”
Once you determine your child doesn’t have covid, keep them home until they have not had a fever for 24 hours and feel well enough to go back to school, similar to the way you would handle any other viral illness. Children infected with covid will need to stay home for at least 10 days after their symptoms started or, if they’re asymptomatic, 10 days after their first positive covid test.
Q: Should parents test unvaccinated kids regularly for covid?
“The simple answer is no,” Tan said. However, if the child is sick or has been exposed to someone known to have covid, they need to be tested.
In some school districts, if a child feels sick, nurses can do a rapid test to identify illness. Even if they can’t be tested, students falling ill will likely be sent to a nurse or administrator and separated from classmates.
“School nurses would assess the student, and if they had symptoms of covid they’d be isolated in a room” until a parent could be called and the student sent home, said Linda Mendonça, president of the National Association of School Nurses.
Q: Should parents follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated recommendation for all kids to wear masks at school this fall, regardless of vaccination status, even in areas that prohibit mask mandates and where mask-wearing isn’t routine?
Yes. “If other people aren’t concerned about the public health risk, that’s on them,” Tan said. “But you should do the best for you and your child.”
Mask-wearing should not be presented as a big deal, Bode said. Parents can calmly explain that masking is important to keep kids safe at school, and that it’s something the whole family does when they go somewhere indoors.
In areas where masks are optional, ask the school how it plans to handle the issue.
“As a parent, you can advocate for a mask mandate even if [politicians say] you shouldn’t,” Offit said.
Q: Should kids wear N95 masks to be safe?
That’s not necessary. Disposable surgical masks or cloth masks with at least two layers are fine, experts say.
“The best mask is one the child will keep on,” Bode said.
Q: What about playground time? Do kids need masks outside?
According to the CDC and the pediatrics academy, kids don’t generally need masks outdoors, unless they’re in a crowd or near others a long time.
Q: What about indoor activities like choir and band? Should parents discourage kids from participating in activities that involve close contact and where the risk of inhaling respiratory droplets is high?
No. Schools figured out safe ways to offer these activities last year and can do so again this year, Bode said. In these situations, it’s important that schools create layers of risk protection, she said. Practice outdoors if possible, and make sure students remain at least 3 feet apart.
Special masks for singers fit tightly around the face but bow out to leave more room for children to project their voices, she said. Likewise, there are masks with openings for band members’ mouths and also covers to catch droplets that might escape from the open ends of instruments.
Q: Do parents need to sanitize bookbags and other items when kids come home from school?
No. “At first, it looked like a virus that would spread on surfaces,” Offit said. “But now we know that it is primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets.”
Q: What else can parents do to make sure kids are as safe as possible at school?
Even if kids can’t get the covid vaccine, make sure they’re current on the rest of their shots, Tan said.
“We’ve seen a significant decline in the number of kids who aren’t up to date on routine immunizations,” Tan said. Avoiding outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses is key to a healthy school year.