NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, AR (KNWA/FOX24) — There are still a lot of questions surrounding the return to school and whether virtually learning will be offered or not. The decision to offer virtual options is ultimately up to each school district.
However, each school district has to apply through the Arkansas Department of Education for two programs. Many area school districts have applied for one or both, but for some parents, it’s too little too late.
“It’s disheartening that last year we were all about protecting the adults and now that this Delta variant is getting kids sick, it seems like who cares about protecting the kids,” said Michaele Clark.
Clark’s family lives in the Prairie Grove school district. She has a rising 4th grader and kindergartener. She said virtual learning was not successful for her older child last school year at their previous district, and now they can’t do virtual again.
“She was excluded from a lot within her class,” said Clark. “We didn’t want her to have to go through that again. Plus, it’s not possible this year with our work schedules.”
A study from Northwest Evaluation Association sheds more light on the educational inequalities among students in 3rd to 8th grade from Fall 2020 to Spring 2021. On average, students made gains at a slower rate compared with pre-pandemic levels. Math saw a decline of 8-12 percentile points, while reading saw a decline of 3-6 percentile points.
Clark said she didn’t get any communication from Prairie Grove about its plans for the upcoming school year when she went to register her kids and get a tour of the schools. And with no mask mandates allowed in public schools, she’s moving her kids to private school.
“That’s our last ditch effort to do something to try and protect our kids,” she said.
Prairie Grove Superintendent Reba Holmes put out a letter to parents last week detailing the district’s back to school plan. It says that parents have to communicate with their child’s principal before being considered for a virtual student spot.
Districts have submit applications to two virtual programs with ADE: Act 1240 Digital Learning Waiver Requests and AMI applications.
“Under the application for the Digital Learning program, they are able to offer students an option to learn offsite and it’s more long term,” said Kiffany Pride, Assistant Commissioner of Learning Services at the ADE. “The Alternative Methods of Instruction application is really about giving districts the ability to apply for up to 10 days of that alternative method, should there be an exceptional or emergency circumstance.”
Pride urges parents to contact their individual school districts with any questions regarding virtual plans.