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story.lead_photo.caption FILE — Little Rock School District headquarters are shown in this 2019 file photo. - Photo by Gavin Lesnick

Little Rock School District parents have until Aug. 7 to tell the district if they want their child to learn virtually or on campus, according to the district's "Ready to Learn" plan released Thursday evening.

That's unless the child is in pre-kindergarten. In a short video accompanying the document's release, Superintendent Mike Poore said pre-kindergarten students cannot opt for virtual instruction, according to a directive from Gov. Asa Hutchinson's office.

Additionally, pre-kindergarten students won't be required to wear masks. They will have their temperatures taken when they arrive at school each day and periodically during the day, according to the plan. They will have access to an online learning platform, Seesaw for Schools, that will be used for some assignments.

The announcement of in-person only pre-kindergarten has upset some parents who had already decided they wanted a virtual-learning option for their pre-kindergarten children.

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"As the parent of a pre-K student, this decision is frustrating because I don't currently feel comfortable sending my 4-year-old son to school for in-person classes," Ali Noland, a district parent and School Board candidate, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Noland called the new policy "last-minute" and said it puts families in a bind.

"I'm afraid we will lose our son's spot for the entire school year if we don't send him to school in August," she said.

The district isn't ready to safely return to in-person classes, and by no fault of its own, she said. The task right now is "impossible," she said.

The Little Rock district released a working version earlier this month of its plan to return to in-person instruction this fall, seeking feedback. Thursday's plan expands on that earlier version by a few pages, going into greater detail about what parents and guardians need to do to make sure their children are healthy and how virtual instruction will take place, among other things.

Many details of the plan haven't changed, such as the district requiring face coverings on buses and in all school buildings, limiting visitors, and changing the daily schedule to allow for more lunch periods and to limit between-class transitions.

The district has so far purchased 3.5 million masks, Poore said in the video. The plan and video, in both English and Spanish, can be found here: https://www.lrsd.org/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=4&ModuleInstanceID=2716&ViewID=6446EE88-D30C-497E-9316-3F8874B3E108&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=8375&PageID=1.

In the new plan, the district specifies that students are still subject to the student handbook and that in-person instruction students who refuse to wear a mask enough times may eventually be assigned to the virtual-learning option.

The district still intends to provide computers for students who need them to learn virtually.

About half of the district's parents and guardians who have responded so far intend to continue virtual learning. If a student's parents or guardians don't respond, the student will be assigned to in-person instruction. Parents and guardians can fill out the form at https://securek12.lrsd.org/MyChoiceFall2020/.

They can request a change later on in the year, if the student meets certain requirements. That includes if the student becomes at risk for severe symptoms if the student were to become infected with the coronavirus, if the student or a member of the household tests positive for the coronavirus or if the student can no longer be supervised at home for virtual learning.

In the virtual-learning environment, teachers will create their own lessons, students and teachers will be required to interact via videoconferencing and students will be monitored for how well they're progressing in the virtual environment.

Parents, guardians, students and teachers can access various training to help them understand how to approach school in the fall.

The plan also outlines additional health protocols and resources for mental health, and some elective courses.

The plan now asks schools to contact the state Health Department's coronavirus call center when they believe a student has been exposed to a confirmed coronavirus case.

The district also added to its general disinfection protocols. That includes disallowing the use of any water fountains, forming a cleaning checklist for custodial staff and administration and adding a statement that all spaces will be cleaned daily.

The new plan also provides links to resources for parents, mental health counselors and employees concerned about addressing social and emotional health needs for both children and themselves.

The district has also identified a virtual music education program for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, called QUAVER, for students and educators to use.

Students will continue to have access to career technical education courses but may have to attend in-person, even if they've chosen virtual instruction.

Print Headline: LRSD plans to teach pre-K in-person only

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