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RCS returns to school with increased in-person numbers

Russellville City Schools returned to school Jan. 6 with a decrease in virtual numbers and a new confidence going into the second semester of the school year.

RCS Superintendent Heath Grimes said during the fall semester the system had about 12 percent of students participating in virtual learning, but this semester that figure is down to less than 5 percent.

“I think in the fall we learned we can have school,” Grimes said. “We are going to continue our precautions and continue doing the things the CDC has recommended, but we are going to be doing in-person learning as much as possible because we think it is important.”

The highest virtual percentage in RCS is at the high school, which transitioned from 12 percent virtual to 6 percent – a difference of 60 additional students in the classroom.

West Elementary went from 9 percent to 3.5 percent, Russellville Elementary went from 10 percent to 2 percent and Russellville Middle went from 16 percent to 4 percent.

Grimes said with increased numbers comes additional problems with social distancing, which the system is doing its best to accommodate.

RHS Principal Jason Goodwin said in the fall semester the school reduced the number of students in a classroom to 14 or 15, but this semester, classes are at capacity with about 25 students.

“That is what we have worked on all week – trying to reduce those class sizes down,” Goodwin said.

Grimes said although it is harder for students to social distance with larger class sizes, he feels confident students are at minimal risk inside the classroom.

“Our system is doing a great job of cleaning, social distancing and keeping masks on,” Grimes said. “Right now we aren’t seeing a lot of kids contracting the virus because of being in the classroom.”

Goodwin said schools are continuing to require students to wear masks at all times, keeping hallways one directional, checking temperatures and encouraging the use of hand sanitizer.

The only difference at RHS this semester is that students are encouraged to go to the bathroom during class instead of in between classes to prevent a large gathering of people in the bathrooms between classes.

“We noticed that was one of the times when they really backed up was when class changes because everybody had to go to the bathroom,” Goodwin said. “So we have now encouraged teachers to let students go during class, so that has reduced the crowdedness in the bathrooms.”

Grimes said RCS’ numbers have been low for positive cases, which has allowed school to continue mostly as normal.

“All in all, for students, other than contracting it and taking it outside of the school system, we’re not seeing a lot of impact on our schools,” Grimes said.

Grimes said since the precautions RCS has taken have been effective, so the school system is going to continue to be cautious and follow precautions from the past semester.

Goodwin said the positive outcome of the past semester has given the schools better insight on how to handle things this semester.

“Obviously one student with it is too many, but we are happy about where we are at right now and the things we are doing,” Goodwin said.

Grimes said he believes the increase in positive cases happen when school is not in session, so he feels confident about the job the school system is doing to prevent the spread.

“I think you’ll see a lot more in-person learning from us this time,” Grimes said.