Arkansas puts a hammer down on back-to-school COVID-19 scheduling

KNWA

"I think there is a vast majority of teachers, educators, and staff that feel this is unwise," Kelly Riley, a teacher at Fayetteville High School, said.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A local teacher says she’s feeling utterly numb going into the fall semester.

We’re going to open schools in two weeks, then we’re going to make sure everyone is thoroughly infected and exposed, and then we have to close for virtual? That’s the thing I want to avoid.

KELLY RILEY, FAYETTEVILLE HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER

On Wednesday, August 5, Arkansas Department of Education Secretary Johnny Key clarified the state’s back-to-school guidance — stating all school districts must offer on-site instruction five days a week.

“This is not a change in our stance at all,” Key said. “We have said since day one, the plan for the fall of this school year is to come back and have school on-site.”

This new directive goes against the Fayetteville School District’s back-to-school plan.

“We had been aware that some districts had been making plans that are fewer than 5 days and we felt like the clarification was needed today to make sure districts understood we do have a state responsibility,” Key said.

In July, Fayetteville Schools Superintendent Dr. John L. Colbert laid out three options for parents to choose from — all included three days of virtual learning for children.

On August 4, KNWA/KFTA spoke with Alan Wilbourn, with Fayetteville Public Schools.

He said after many meetings and physically going into every classroom, in order to make sure social distancing guidelines were followed — this was the best solution.

“We felt like the number one priority had to be the health and safety of students and staff that are on-site at school,” he said. “We determined that we really can’t social distance properly if everyone is there at the same time.”

After Key’s clarification, the district said it’s revising its plan to meet the new directive.

“With today’s new directive from Secretary of Education Johnny Key, we will adjust our plan accordingly, continuing to prioritize the safety of our students and staff members to the best of our ability,” Dr. Colbert said in a press release.

(Getty)

It’s not that we don’t want to be with our kids. I’m dying to see my students, I want to see them. We’re just worried about our community, ourselves, and our students.

KELLY RILEY, FAYETTEVILLE HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER

Kelly Riley, a teacher at Fayetteville High School, said she’s concerned about the state’s push for in-person schooling.

“They just say we have a plan, and we feel strong enough that our plan is good,” she said. “We haven’t really seen the plan, we don’t know what they based it on, we don’t know anything.”

He just says we have a plan and this is what is best interest for Arkansas. I don’t agree. 

KELLY RILEY, FAYETTEVILLE HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER

She said she’s even more worried since the numbers in Washington County continue to stay high.

“We would love to go to face-to-face once it’s safe,” Riley said. “We want our community safe, we want our kids safe, we want our coworkers safe, we want a better plan from our governor.”

See the district’s full response below:

In response to the revised directive issued today by the Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education stating, “it is expected that all school districts offer, at a minimum, relevant and engaging onsite learning opportunities each day of the five-day school week,” Fayetteville Public Schools will alter the Traditional/Blended/Hybrid Learning Option that was communicated to students and families on July 15 to meet this new directive.

The Traditional Learning Option will now include five days of on-campus face-to-face instruction for the fall semester.  

The Home Campus Virtual Option will still be available for families who prefer students to take all classes online, associated with their school of record, for the fall semester.

Fayetteville Virtual Academy remains another long-term placement option for students to take all classes online. An application process is required for this option. 

Fayetteville Public Schools will provide a new survey to families allowing them the opportunity to re-select their options for learning for their children for the fall semester of 2020-2021 school year. 

“After reviewing the initial Ready for Learning guidance from the state, our district team and Ready for Learning committee developed a hybrid plan that we felt best addressed the safety of our students and staff members while they are on campus,” said Dr. John L Colbert, Superintendent. “However, with today’s new directive from Secretary of Education Johnny Key, we will adjust our plan accordingly, continuing to prioritize the safety of our students and staff members to the best of our ability.”

FPS To Revise 2020-2021 Learning Options

KNWA/KFTA knows many parents and teachers still have a lot of questions about the upcoming school year and we are working to get you answers.

If you have any questions, send them to us!

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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