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UPDATE: Little Rock School District will get one-week reprieve from required five-day in-person classes

The rumor of the moment early today was that the Little Rock School District was soon to announce later today a new schedule for in-person schooling.

UPDATE: It’s a one-week-only change to a partial return to five-day schooling.

The rumor had been that there might be a two-week period dividing students who haven’t opted for virtual instruction to alternate attendance, with a total of five days in class over two weeks.

With half the students expected to go all virtual, that could limit students in school to only about a quarter of the district’s 22,000 students, a means to create better distancing, though not eliminate the risk created by people coming and going to the community from the sanitized school bubble.

School officials didn’t respond to my requests for information during the afternoon, but Superintendent Mike Poore posted the news about 5 p.m.

It follows along the lines of what an Education Department spokesman had suggested to me earlier in the afternoon. Kimberly Mundell said then about reports of an alternate-day schedule:

While that has not been submitted for a formal approval, it is not uncommon for the first week of school to be a transition week. Like many other districts in the state, LRSD will use the first week of school as a transition week.

And that’s how it turned out. Remember that Poore answers to Education Secretary Johnny Key, the Little Rock “school board” under state control for more than five years.

Here’s the full memo from Poore.

The key part:

LRSD Community members,

 

In the effort to ensure a smooth start of school, in light of the safety concerns for our students and staff members, the District has decided to implement a Phased Reentry Plan for the first week of school. The Phased Reentry Plan procedures that we shared with you this morning, for the In-person Learning environment, are listed below:

 

In – Person Students: Elementary and Secondary Levels
August 24-28, 2020-(First Week of the School Year)
● Monday, August 24, 2020 and Thursday, August 27, 2020: Students with a Last Name that ends with “A-M” will attend.
○ Secondary: Monday will be an ‘A’ Day.
○ Secondary: Thursday will be a ‘B’ Day.
● Wednesday, August 26, 2020 – Virtual Learning for All Students/Buildings will also be cleaned on that day.
○ Teachers will provide assignments via Schoology
○ Teachers will report to the building
● Tuesday, August 25, 2020 and Friday, August 28, 2020: Students with a Last Name that ends with “N-Z” will attend.
○ Secondary: Tuesday will be an ‘A’ Day.
○ Secondary: Friday will be a ‘B’ Day.
● Pre-Kindergarten students will attend school on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

If a student comes to school on a day when he or she is not scheduled, the school staff should still allow the student to attend. Households with students with different last names and attending the same school will be encouraged to use the last name of the oldest child to determine the day of attendance.

Fayetteville was allowed to do this — all year — by Education Secretary  Key last week after a similar plan was initially prohibited. Little Rock was given no forbearance. But now there’s been a tiny touch of relief granted, perhaps because of pushback in Little Rock from teachers.

The Little Rock Education Association, which once represented teachers and staff in the district, has said schools should reopen only on a virtual basis because of health risks. (Many doctors have said the same.) UAMS’s updated projection on COVID-19 said yesterday that the cases could be reduced dramatically by postponement of in-person school. Numerous public health doctors have been speaking privately about the risks of in-person school and high school football, but Hutchinson to date has resisted anything that doesn’t include required daily classes. Arkansas needs people to go to work, he says, because that’s what the chamber of commerce demands. Health risks be damned. If stuff happens, don’t get “bent out of shape.”

Fayetteville planned an alternate-day schedule; was told it couldn’t do it, and then later told by Education Secretary Johnny Key that it could. Confusion reigns in Arkansas. Hutchinson said today if teachers didn’t go to work in Little Rock they shouldn’t be paid.

Seeking reaction from teachers. This is a half-measure at best. Little Rock still being treated like a second-class group of citizens by the Hutchinson administration. A sop is just a sop.


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