ALMA, Arkansas — It's an exciting day for kids across Arkansas as they head back to school. It's also a busy day for school leaders who have been preparing with extra COVID-19 safety precautions.
“We learned a lot of lessons last year and we’re going into this year much more prepared," said Alma School Superintendent David Woolly.
Woolly says while the Alma School District is not requiring masks, it's still taking many safety precautions.
“How to keep students away from each other the best we can while at the same time maximizing their education and their opportunity to be with their friends and build a relationship.”
Woolly says students will practice social distancing in the lunchroom, will have one-way hallways and have learning pods in the classroom.
“We are just making sure our students feel welcomed,” Woolly said.
Fort Smith's Ramsey School Principal Amy Manley says it’s their first day as a middle school after switching from a junior high campus. Along with those changes comes COVID-19 precautions, including wearing a mask at all times.
“Our teachers will be cleaning desks in between and students will be using the hand sanitizer when they’re in and out of class," Manley said.
At lunch, students will have to sit three to six feet apart and some students will be seated in the cafeteria and others in the gym.
Coach Xander Johnson says no matter how different the year may look he’s just excited to be back on campus.
“Summer break is great and coming back it’s the coming in and seeing excited looks on their face," Johnson said. "Just ready to get back. Get back in the classroom and get on a schedule again.”
School leaders say they'll follow the CDC closely for any new updates or guidelines. If that happens, those will be added to the plans already in place.
Some seniors at Har-Ber High School made it to campus before the sun came up Monday for a welcome back party on the football field.
Around 100 students brought blankets and snacks to spend the first morning hours of the new school year together, giving a cheer once the sun made it over the horizon.
Senior class president Counts Shanks says this year the student body council is trying to start new traditions that will hopefully continue for years to come.
“We take ideas from other schools and we’re trying to make our own spin on it here at Har-Ber and our own traditions so the next senior class is able to look forward to the senior sunrise,” Shanks said.
Walking back into the building Har-Ber students had the option to wear facemasks. Students in grades 8-12 in the Springdale School District are not required to wear face coverings. However, masks are required for grades K-7.