Arkansas schools will be out due to coronavirus for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) Secretary Johnny Key announced that there will be no in-school instruction in Arkansas for the rest of the year. All of school instruction will continued to be delivered remotely.
Schools were originally closed for two weeks on March 15, but state officials extended the school closure to April 17. At the time, Hutchinson said that officials would reassess this closure as more data became available.
“It is clear that this is still going to go on for some time. You that expressed nationally. Even though we’re flattening that curve, it is still going to go on for some time. As a result of it, we’re going to have to continue with our mitigation efforts in this state,” Hutchinson said.
Students will continue to receive instruction through alternate methods of instruction or AMI. In recent weeks, the state education department has partnered with Arkansas PBS to deliver AMI lessons to students. According to Key, Arkansas AMI (a partnership between Arkansas PBS and the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education) has AMI lessons planned through April 17.
Arkansas AMI is planning to develop AMI content to last through May 1. After this point, Key suggested that school districts should be developing plans for AMI content. “That gives schools time to develop – it gives them about three or four weeks from now to develop plans to move forward with their AMI in their district,” Key said.
Districts, including charter schools, that require assistance will receive aid from the Education Service Cooperative in developing AMI lessons. In some cases, the education department may provide assistance to expand internet capacity “when feasible” for districts in need.
Key advised school districts to set reasonable expectations for AMI lessons for students. He noted that students and parents would likely need more flexible schedules while at home. “It is impractical to try to replicate the school experience when at home,” Key said. “We need to help parents and students by establishing flexible schedules for learning that consider that they may need access to learning support outside of the typical 8-3 school day schedule,” he said.
Hutchinson previously announced that high school seniors who met state guidelines would graduate this year. However, Key said that these students were still expected to complete AMI work and necessary tests, including AP tests. The AP College Board, which oversees the tests, has allowed for online testing through computers, tablets or smartphones. Key said that he was still in discussions about ACT on options for testing remotely.
Arkansas schools will also be allowed to continue providing nutrition for students.
“School districts may continue child nutrition services through meal delivery or meals-to-go options as long as they can follow the health department and CDC guidelines for hand washing, cleaning, social distancing and minimizing the number of people congregating,” Key said.