NORTH LITTLE ROCK — The School District plans to move forward with an online academy option and an in-person option that includes blended learning after an alternating-day schedule was voted down by members of the Reopening School Task Force, according to the district’s interim superintendent.
For several weeks, school officials have discussed an alternating-day schedule in which students would be split into A and B groups.
The A group would physically attend classes Monday and Tuesday, and the B group would attend classes Thursday and Friday. The building would be sanitized on Wednesday.
“Some of the concerns we have is potentially putting kids in buildings that can’t handle the bandwidth capability,” interim Superintendent Keith McGee told the task force on Tuesday. “We also have to think about supervision for students and how we are going to feed the kids. Also, some parents have to work as well.”
Autumn Thomas, a secondary educator for the district, suggested limiting the alternating days to high school students since they are more likely to be able to independently learn.
“It might seem pessimistic, but I believe it’s inevitable that we are going to go fully online again,” Thomas said. “I think we should go ahead and tackle the challenges now and use the first few weeks to get everyone used to the concept.”
Lauren Whitmore, an elementary school teacher and task force member, agreed.
“I am realistic,” she said. “I think we are probably going to go all back online, and I want to teach my students how to be successful at home.”
McGee said he didn’t want the school year to start off 100% online because of the challenge of getting students to participate in the program, which the district faced during the previous semester.
“I am not opposed to an A-B option for high school students only, but we are fighting against time,” he said.
Amanda Stuckey, supervisor of school nurses and a registered nurse, told the task force she was afraid if the school year started off online, then the district would lose students.
“I don’t know if we can afford that,” she said.
Task force members also mentioned the challenge of social distancing in some schools.
McGee said there is hope within the district that enough students will choose the online option and social distancing will be achievable.
School officials said they have ordered three washable cloth masks for every staff member and student in the 8,000-student school district, as well as 1,000 boxes of gloves, N95 masks for staff members who need them, more than 30,000 disposable masks, face shields, disposable barrier gowns, protective eyewear and sanitizing equipment.
Sandy Williams, the district’s safety coordinator, mentioned that schools will need to monitor the types of masks students wear to make sure they don’t represent something that could cause problems in the school.
Stuckey also told the task force if a student tests positive for the virus teachers who were within 6 feet of the student will probably need to be quarantined for an amount of time.
McGee said the district’s Human Resources Department is working to get a list of 30 substitute teachers who will be committed to the school district in case teachers are sent home.
“We want to train the substitutes on blended learning as well,” McGee said. “We want them