Greene County was added to the list of Arkansas counties that have confirmed cases of the coronavirus according to information shared during the state’s daily news conference update on Friday.

Greene County and Benton County were the two additional counties affected.

According to Arkansas Department of Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith, the state was dealing with 96 cases of COVID-19 as of Friday. Of those, eight cases were among children, 26 were among people age 65 or older, and 62 were adults age 19-64.

Arkansas Secretary of Education Johnny Key also said Friday during the news conference that the state would be seeking to waive annual ACT testing for students from the federal government.

As the requirement for school closures continues to change in the state, local school districts have been adapting.

Paragould School District

“We have sent out our buses to deliver the food backpacks for our Backpack program,” said superintendent Debbie Smith on Friday morning. “We are delivering 230 backpacks to kids in the district who had been receiving food bags during the (school) year.”

Smith also said those delivering the backpacks would be following the protocol requiring COVID-19 screening, face masks and gloves.

Given that Spring Break runs from March 23-27, no food will be distributed during that week. However, Smith said, the food distribution will resume on March 30 with involved workers following the above protocol. “We are looking at all the options regarding food for our students after the break,” she said.

Included among those options are continuing the provision of breakfasts and lunches at the parking lots of Junior High School and Oak Grove Middle School, the Ram Academy at 505 E. Canal St. and the East Side Impact Center at 700 E. Main St. “We may add some locations as well,” Smith said, although she acknowledged such locations have yet to be defined. We want to feed the students, and we will be following the standard operating procedures for safe food handling.”

Education has not stopped during the closure, Smith noted. “Right now,” she said, “for March 30, the students have AMI (Alternative Methods of Instruction) days six through 10 to do. They already have them.”

The district will be working on additional AMI packets, Smith said, after Spring Break for distribution to students. “We’ll put them out to April 17,” she said.

Greene County Tech School District

“We had a conference-call meeting with superintendents in Northeast Arkansas this morning,” said Greene County Tech superintendent Gene Weeks on Friday. “And we’ll be doing more AMI and enrichment, through Facebook, the website and so on.”

In addition, Weeks said, the district would be undertaking more protective measures against the virus to enhance safety. “We have delivered (food) backpacks and had parents to pick up meals,” he said. “We will revisit the issue (of student meals) after Spring Break.”

Weeks also said that school nurses would come in and screen food service staff before such workers would be allowed to work after Spring Break.

Weeks said that AMI packets 6-10 will be available on the district’s website.

Marmaduke School District

According to information available on the district website, the week following Spring Break (March 30-April 3) will be AMI days 6-10. Students should complete these items in their AMI packets and be prepared to turn them in upon their return to school

The district is awaiting further information regarding additional AMI days and/or other options. It will continue to hand out free lunch and breakfast items during the three weeks following Spring Break. There will be no sports activities, practices, or student activities on campus until Monday, April 20. All athletic facilities will be closed.

As of March 20, the district plans to resume all normal school activities on Monday, April 20. It will provide additional information regarding COVID-19 through text messages, the Marmaduke School District web page, Facebook, and media outlets.

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