The field of teacher preparation is in an unprecedented professional context with regard to providing safe field experiences and internships during a significant rise in the number of COVID-19 variant cases in central Arkansas. We understand how difficult it is to navigate in this challenging environment. As a result, the School of Education encourages all students going into field experiences and internships in K-12 schools this fall to become vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. Given that students younger than age 12 do not yet have access to a COVID-19 vaccine combined with the current low vaccination rate of Arkansans in general, it is likely that field students and interns across all licensure programs will be working in classrooms with unvaccinated children. While you may not be observing or interning in a 6th grade or lower classroom, you may be sharing common areas with unvaccinated students under 12 years of age in high-use areas such as entrance areas, hallways, and bathrooms. In addition, you may find yourself in these same areas with school staff who may not have not been vaccinated.
The best way to protect yourself and those you spend significant time with outside of school is (1) to get vaccinated and (2) to wear a mask when you cannot social distance, which is difficult in most classrooms and school spaces. Additionally, it will be important for you to know and to follow district policies concerning COVID-19 protocols, noting that these policies are changing constantly.
Please be aware that current state law combined with FERPA does not allow us to ask if children you are teaching or educators that you will be working with have been vaccinated. Likewise, schools cannot ask you about your vaccination status.
Vaccines are readily available to you at our UA Little Rock Health Services (provide link to sign up for appointment) and at local pharmacies and other vaccine providers. Additionally, eligible Arkansans can make an appointment at a community pharmacy. Vaccine clinics and events may also be available in your area through hospitals, health care providers, or your worksite. Click here for a list of clinics.
Kent Layton, PhD