FARMINGTON -- Farmington High School returned to on-site classes Monday after pivoting to virtual learning for one day on Friday because of covid-19 cases on campus.
Farmington High last week announced it had canceled its Sept. 25 football game against Harrison due to covid-19 concerns. In a news release, the district said the school had three players test positive on the senior high team and an additional 22 players under quarantine.
On Thursday, Superintendent Jon Laffoon said he talked to the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Department of Education and it was decided that if the school saw an "uptick" in cases or quarantines over the week, then the high school would pivot to virtual learning for safety reasons and to allow the campus to be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.
Laffoon said a staff member (not from the high school) then tested positive last week and the number of quarantined students increased.
The district updates daily a covid-19 dashboard that shows the number of students and staff who have tested positive for the virus district-wide or have been quarantined because of possible exposure to the virus.
As the week progressed, the dashboard jumped in numbers from three student positive cases and 22 students quarantined to five active student cases with 75 in quarantine. All of these are at the high school, Laffoon said. For staff, the dashboard on Friday showed one active case (not at the high school) and two in quarantine, with one from the high school.
The covid-19 dashboard did not change over the weekend.
Laffoon said he submitted a plan to the state to switch to virtual learning for one day and it was approved.
Jon Purifoy, Farmington High principal, said the announcement was made to staff and students on Thursday morning about pivoting to virtual learning. Staff worked on site Friday to provide assistance for any students who needed extra help and to teach their classes.
Purifoy said he told students it would be like a normal school day but at home. Teachers communicated with their students through Google Classroom.
"We worked on that at the first of the year," Purifoy said. "They've practiced this."
Every classroom and every building on the high school campus was cleaned Friday by the district's custodial company, 360 Service, and school staff. Purifoy said cleaning and sanitizing classrooms is already a practice that is done continually through the school day.
Laffoon said Farmington High's pivot to virtual learning for one day was considered a "limited response" to covid-19.
He said it was concerning when the number of cases increased and the number of students who had to be quarantined last week increased from 22 to 72 and then to 75.
"There's some spreading but we're trying to prevent an outbreak," Laffoon said.
When covid-19 tests results come back positive, school nurse Jessie Wallian, who is the district's point of contact, works to identify and call any close contacts, Laffoon said. The Arkansas Department of Health determines if others need to be contacted beyond that point, and the health department makes those calls, Laffoon said.
Students are required to quarantine for 14 days before they can return to school, whether they show any symptoms or not or whether they get tested and are negative. If they do not develop any symptoms, students do not have to get tested, Laffoon said, noting the decision is up to the parents.
Laffoon said Farmington High's situation is another reason to remind students and parents to be careful and follow guidelines to help prevent or slow down the spread of the new coronavirus. Those guidelines include wearing masks, frequently washing hands and staying socially distant from people.