JONESBORO — Officials with the Jonesboro School District announced early Friday morning that Douglas MacArthur Junior High School will be closed an additional week due to COVID-19.

When the district first announced MacArthur’s closure Tuesday afternoon, there were 8 positive COVID-19 cases and 132 quarantined students. On Friday morning, it was announced the school will remain closed until Oct. 5 due to an additional positive case and 20 more quarantined students, bringing the junior high’s totals to 9 positive COVID-19 cases and 152 quarantined students.

William Cheatham, assistant superintendent of student services for the district, said Tuesday’s decision was based on school attendance.

“What we really noticed was, as the number of students doing remote learning increased, it put a lot more stress on our teachers,” Cheatham said.

Other district campuses have had positive COVID-19 cases and have had students required to quarantine, but nothing like the magnitude at MacArthur, Cheatham said. He attributes MacArthur’s situation to students attending different classes where they are around more students.

“Elementary is different because they all stick to one class and are around three or four students all day,” he said. “Secondary schools attend four different classes a day, so (students) are going to be sitting around more students.”

Cheatham said contact tracing of the cases has indicated none of the COVID-19 cases are related and all were caught off campus where the school has no control.

“All the cases, so far, have been mild,” he said.

Students and staff are adjusting to remote learning, and Cheatham said Thursday was the most successful day the district has had with the number of students attending remote learning. Of the 474 enrolled at Douglas MacArthur, only 14 did not attend. Cheatham attributed that to probable illness.

In the meantime, while the campus remains closed, officials at MacArthur are doing their best to implement even more stringent measures to help prevent the spread of the virus.

“The plan was already in place that every evening, the classrooms are misted with disinfectant,” Cheatham said. “We offer hand sanitizer during class, and every classroom is disinfected between classes.”

Chatham said when the school closed Tuesday, MacArthur crews began extra sanitizing measures.

“Thursday they began looking at what they can do differently, like seeing if there are other places where they can hold large classes,” he said. “They want to increase their social distancing even more than what they already have been.”

Overall, Cheatham said parents and students within the entire district have really stepped up to follow guidelines during the pandemic.

“The kids have done really well across the district wearing masks. Parents have done great with screening students and not sending sick kids (to school),” he said. “It has been impressive watching them do what we are asking them to do.”

Superintendent Kim Wilbanks said in a press release Friday morning that all athletic practices and activities at the junior high are canceled until Oct 5.

“Meals for MacArthur students are available at multiple locations (Word Church, Parker Park, and Fairview Neighborhood),” the release stated.

Wilbanks also said if the district decides to close the facility past Oct. 5, parents and students will be notified.

“We pushed (reopening) back to Oct. 5, the date when all students can return,” Cheatham said, noting this was inclusive of both students who tested positive for COVID-19 and those currently quarantined.

Adria Hyde is the education reporter for Craighead County and county reporter for Poinsett County.

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