Dear Searcy School District students, staff, and community patrons,
None of us expected that Covid-19 would be an issue again, but it certainly is. As I'm sure you know, cases in Arkansas have increased dramatically in the last few weeks, and the rate of increase has so far shown no signs of slowing down. It is important we take all precautions in order to keep students and staff safe. Currently, our county has 847 active cases, and has a 14 day infection rate of 61 per 10,000. The current positivity rate for White County sits at 14.1%. Hospital capacity in the area is thin, and local healthcare offices report a shortage of qualified personnel to attend to patients. Patrons may find current COVID-19 data for the Searcy School District at https://achi.net/covid19/ and also at https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/covid-19-reports
Our state legislature passed Act 1002 of 2021. This law removed public school boards' ability to require masks. On Friday, August 6, 2021, the Honorable Timothy Fox, Pulaski County Circuit Judge, entered an Order for Declaratory Relief and Preliminary Injunction finding that Act 1002 of 2021 in his order states that 1002 “facially violates the equal protection provisions of Article 2 of the Arkansas Constitution, in that it discriminates, without a rational basis, between minors in public schools and minors in private schools;”
As a result of Judge Fox’s ruling, Searcy School District’s Board of Directors has approved a resolution that permits our administration to require that all students, staff, and visitors to Searcy Schools while indoors on our campuses, buildings, and buses wear a face covering/mask that will cover the nose and mouth of the wearer. This requirement will remain in effect until the Governor’s health emergency declaration ceases. The Searcy School Board recognizes that the legal proceedings related to Act 1002 are continuing, that Judge Fox’s order may be appealed or stayed, and that circumstances may change as to the constitutionality and enforceability of Act 1002.
We will have masks available in schools for anyone who wants one, and of course, students are welcome to bring one from home. Aside from vaccinations, masks are the best defense we have from the virus. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control is recommending everyone wear a mask when indoors, whether or not they are vaccinated. We firmly believe that our mask requirement will help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and will keep our students and faculty safe.
Under current guidance from the Arkansas Department of Health, students who are fully vaccinated and do not have symptoms will not be required to quarantine even if they have been in close contact with an infected person. If your child is eligible to be vaccinated (12 years or older), I encourage you to give consideration to this. When a student is in close contact, quarantine is not mandatory if both the infected person and close contact are wearing masks.
Last year confirmed what we already knew... nothing works as well for a child's education as being present at school. We hope every child in our district will be at school every day possible and will take advantage of the educational opportunities which will be provided. We can promise you school staff will do everything possible to educate each child and to keep them safe.
If you have any questions about this or any other matter feel free to contact me. My email address and phone number can be found on our district website.
Bobby Hart Ed.d