HEBER SPRINGS – Heber Springs Schools continues with its plan for classes beginning Aug. 24. The challenge for the semester is, of course, meeting the safety requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The requirement for school opening has created challenges, but the school district is working through options in order to address both public concern and education needs, Heber Springs Schools Communication Coordinator Bahar Pruitt said.

In a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the school district website, a list of options and considerations are listed for the 2020-21 school year.

The first option is how a student may attend classes. The district is offering three options, either onsite instruction, the traditional school attendance, remote-only instruction, or a hybrid of onsite and remote learning. Students may enroll in any option, and are allowed to change that option to one of the remaining two one time during the semester.

“We want to help them out as much as possible,” Pruitt said.

Even the onsite students, however, will be trained on how to use the online resources, including websites, so they will be able to access learning resources if schools are closed again, as they were in April due to the pandemic.

Internet access is required for online study.

Students over 10 years old will be expected to mask and meet social distancing requirements. Masking and distancing extends to the under 10 years old students, who will be “encouraged” to wear masks, Pruitt said. This encouragement to younger students is in excess of the requirement made by Arkansas Department of Health when Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced schools would reopen on Aug. 24.

The FAQ states that if parents are uncomfortable with the mask mandate, and encouragement of masks for younger students, the online learning option would be the best option.

Students would also engage in frequent hand-washing, Pruitt said.

The online FAQ states that the school would “refrain from sharing supplies to the greatest extent possible.” Students would still interact with, for example, teachers despite the distancing requirements, per the FAQ.

Activity classes, as well as checking out library books, will continue to take place.

Sports, Pruitt said, is still planned to take place, with the football team in practice now. Athletes are expected, when not engaged in play, to wear masks and maintain social distance, she said.

A fund-raiser football game is expected for the second day of school.

Pruitt said attendance of fans at football games would also be permitted, again with masking and social distancing expected. Every other row of the bleachers will be closed, and the band, which normally sits in the bleachers with fans, will be moved to the end zone to help facilitate distancing in the bleachers.

The school district released a statement Tuesday evening that a player on the football team has tested positive for COVID-19. From the statement: “... no other football players or coaches were in close contact with the athlete” and that practice would continue.

Additional information, including the FAQ, is available at the Heber Springs Schools website.

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