PRAIRIE GROVE -- For its first day of the 2021-22 school year, Prairie Grove schools had 1,912 students on campus, Superintendent Reba Holmes told board members last week.
She said the district, as of Aug. 17, had 2,102 students enrolled in school, so about 190 students were unaccounted for on the first day of school.
Holmes said the "warm body count" seemed low to her, but she was told by staff members it's hard to make any determinations on the first day of school. She said it's possible the mask mandate could have affected attendance the first day but she didn't know that for a fact.
Prairie Grove has 141 students who are being homeschooled, which means they are not part of the school district's enrollment, Holmes said. Last year, there were 182 students being homeschooled.
One family with four students has opted to be homeschooled but is using the district's curriculum. These students are considered Prairie Grove students, Holmes said.
Another 32 students are using the district's virtual learning option, which is the Lincoln Learning Management System.
Holmes handed out a preliminary draft plan for mask guidelines that the board could use each month when discussing whether to amend the mask mandate.
The board voted during a special meeting in August to require masks for all students and staff inside school buildings and in school-provided transportation. Athletics, activities and music practice and competition are exempt from indoor masking, along with rigorous exercise in P.E. or inside recess.
Holmes recommended using covid data from several websites -- covidactnow.org, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement. These websites provide updated information on cases and vaccination rates.
Holmes said she believes information from the sites will help the board make a decision on whether to change its mask mandate based on updated data, not emotions.
"I'm trying to come up with a way to help you make decisions," Holmes told board members. "This is food for thought for you for next month."
The draft shows that the district would have standard precautions at all levels of risk: covid screenings, hand washing, physical distancing, disinfecting facilities.
Holmes said one option is to use risk level ratings when making a decision about the mask mandate. For a low risk of covid transmissions, masks would be optional; for a medium risk, masks would be recommended and for a high risk, masks would be required.
On Aug. 19, the websites had the following information:
• covidactnow.org - Washington County had a "severe" risk level for covid-19 with a positivity rate of 11.1%. Just over 50% of eligible persons had received at least one dose of a covid-19 vaccine. The county was seeing about 75 new cases daily, per 100,000 people, with an infection rate of 1.03. Hospitalizations and deaths had been on the rise for the past month.
• The website for Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, achi.net, on Aug. 16, showed the Prairie Grove School District, which includes all residents living within the school boundaries, as being in the purple zone, the highest risk zone, with 100 infections per 100,000 people.
• The website, covid.cdc.gov for the county tracker, shows Washington County having a high risk transmission (red color) of covid-19, for the period ending Aug. 17.
The board did not take any action on the draft plan.
In other business, the board approved the purchase of new carpet for the middle school band room for $12,252 and the purchase of vinyl plank flooring for two high school classrooms from Flooring America in Siloam Springs. It also approved a recommendation to purchase 40 Samsung TVs from Best Buy for $34,131 for the new middle school building.
The board also approved 21 student transfers, two students from Farmington to Prairie Grove and the rest from Prairie Grove to Farmington (8), Fayetteville (2), Lincoln (2) and Cedarville (6).