BENTON, Arkansas — While COVID-19 cases continue to rise around the state, thousands of kids and teachers will be heading back to school next week.
Despite this spike in numbers, Isabella Bradley, Benton Public Schools Public Relations Director, said they're ready for next semester.
"I know there are a lot of nerves both on the staff, the parents, the students, everyone's a little nervous hearing about this new variant, but I know that the school district is doing everything that we can to keep our staff and our students safe and healthy," she said.
The hallways in Benton High School won't be quiet for much longer as Christmas break comes to a close.
While students and staff relaxed, Bradley said cleaning was the district's top priority.
"During these past two weeks our maintenance crews have been working constantly to make sure that every surface that kids would touch, across all of our district, has been sanitized," she said.
Bradley said that means everything from classrooms to door handles.
While some guidelines have recently changed from the CDC, she said second semester will look like the first.
"Everything that we are doing comes from the Arkansas Department of Health and the Governor's office. We are waiting to hear anything that would change, then we can decide what we're going to do as a district," Bradley said.
School starting back up in the midst of the Omicron variant spreading is something that makes doctors like Gene Shelby nervous.
"It is very contagious, I don't think there's any doubt about that. You really don't have to have that much exposure and even people that are vaccinated are at risk of catching this because it is transmissible," he said.
Dr. Shelby said if your kid hasn't been vaccinated, get that done now. If they are protected, he said extra precautions are still necessary.
"If I was a parent, regardless of whether the school board is mandating, I would mandate it as a parent. If you're going to be in a classroom full of kids, you got to be wearing a mask," he said.
While we get ready to ring in a new school year, Dr. Shelby said we aren't at the finish line yet.
"We're still in the middle of this pandemic and the virus is there and it's spreading, and I think everybody needs to take the proper precautions to try to slow it down," he said.
Meanwhile Bryant Public Schools announced on Facebook on Friday, Dec. 31, that masks will be required the first week back to school due to the rising rate of cases.