Arkansas Health Department releases guidelines for school bands to play

The state of Arkansas has released a set of guidelines for school bands to follow to safely practice instruments and social distance amid the coronavirus pandemic.

MAUMELLE, Ark. — The Arkansas Department of Health released a set of guidelines for school bands to follow to safely practice instruments and social distance.

“It’s been since mid-March, it’s been almost four-five months since we’ve been able to play, so the kids are eager and ready to go,” Kerry Blakemore said.

Kerry Blakemore is the band director at Maumelle High School. He is getting ready to have his students playing again, as new guidelines are allowing them to use their instruments. Blakemore has been holding conditioning practices outside to keep his students engaged.

“We’re excited to finally receive some guidelines formally from the state and ADH and the exciting news is it aligns with what we know as band directors, what we’ve been keeping up with, every national study, everything that is going out,” he said.

For the time being, instruments can only be played outside. There has to be a six-foot minimum distance between most instrument players; it goes up to nine-feet for trombone players and 12-feet for flutes.

“Fortunately, we’ve been prepared for this as a program. We’ve been practicing at a 15-foot spacing outside in our physical conditioning, so that’s becoming our new norm,” Blakemore said.

Students must wear a mask with a slit or a flap for the mouthpiece. Flute players can slide the instrument in the side of their masks.

“We’re going to order those for some of our students, working on that today actually,” Blakemore said.

Blakemore is also working with a local seamstress to make instrument bell covers.

“It’s kind of a mask for the instrument at the end of the bell, that helps another layer to protect and reduce aerosol emissions that way,” he said. 

“There is a scientific study that supports that. And we jumped on the gun a couple weeks ago when that information came out and started preparing for that.”

If it is too hot or raining, Blakemore will keep students inside and not play those days.

“We’re going to tailor and adjust our lesson plans to where we’re always moving our kids forward,” he said.

Other guidelines include:

  • Storage rooms may only be used for the storage of personal items. Social distancing of 6 feet must be maintained in the storage rooms.
  • Individual practice participants should use their own equipment if possible. School instruments may be assigned to a single student.
  • Avoid personal contact at all times. This includes, but is not limited to, high-fives, handshaking, and fist-bumping.
  • Directors and All Staff must have temperature checked by digital thermometer prior to entry, and those whose temperature is 100.4°F or greater must be excluded.

“We think it’s a great starting point and that’s what we’ve been wanting as band directors across our state is a go-ahead and we followed the national studies and we knew it was safe if you took the right precautions to play wind instruments,” Blakemore said.

For more information on guidelines for bands, click here.