The 2020-21 school year start date is being push back as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. State officials are aiming to provide more time for local districts to prepare for unprecedented challenges.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that the start of the upcoming school year will be pushed forward. Now, the school year will begin the week of Aug. 24. Previously, it was set to begin the week of Aug. 13.
However, schools must start no later than Wednesday, Aug. 26.
Schools will be returning to in-person instruction at the beginning of the year. Hutchinson emphasized the necessity of returning for in-person, on-site instruction but also said that schools can transition to a “blended learning environment” in the event of infections.
“We are going to be having school next year,” he said. “We’re going to be ready for learning. It’s going to be flexible, practical, adaptable, inclusive, accessible.”
“When we start school, we want them to be physically present, but then the districts must also be prepared to shift to other instructional delivery methods should the need arise. That means when there’s a positive case or whenever you have to take more restrictive measures, and you need to go some level of online instruction or provide that for an option, that’s where the blended learning environment comes in and the flexibility for our local school districts.”
According to Hutchinson, moving the school openings to late August is meant to provide additional time for school districts to prepare for the unprecedented challenge of opening in a pandemic situation.
“The reason for this moving forward 10 to 14 days is to give the school districts more time in order to make the adjustments necessary, to make sure their campus is ready, to make sure their teachers are prepared for the blended learning environment that we’re going to be able go through this year,” Hutchinson said. “We’re fully committed to school. We’re committed to on-site instruction. But, this announcement will be well received by some. Others not so well-received, but [I] believe the right decision so we will be prepared for the school year.”
Arkansas Department of Education Secretary Johnny Key said that his department will be working to coordinate additional training and professional development for districts and teachers. “It is vital that all districts are ready to meet the needs of all students,” Key said.