Education

Courtesy / Stephanie Jones

This fall semester, more parents with children enrolled in public schools are placing their kids into virtual small-group education pods, private off-campus classrooms facilitated by qualified instructors. Such learning pods for now remain unregulated by districts and the state.

In the Springdale School District, substitutes who can typically take a job at any school, are being assigned to a building this year as a way to limit the spread of COVID-19. According to the Arkansas Department of Health, Springdale, the state's largest district, had 18 active cases as of Sept. 7.

Courtesy / Annie Clapper / Yonnie Lucas

We speak with a couple of local first graders and their parents (mostly their parents) about their first impressions of their first week of school during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jake is a first grader at Greenland Elementary School and is attending classes in person. Meanwhile, Hazel is a first grader who is learning virtually at Apple Glen Elementary in Bentonville.

The Arkansas Department of Health reported 722 new positive cases of COVID-19 out of fewer than 6,900 tests and seven additional deaths in the last 24-hour monitoring period. After declining numbers earlier in the week, Governor Asa Hutchinson said he's concerned about the recent increases in cases. Eight counties reported more than 20 new cases. Pulaski County had the most with 64, but both Benton and Sebastian Counties also made the list with 37 new cases each.

Courtesy / Fayetteville School District

Not surprisingly, school teachers and staff have had a wide range of reactions to reopening schools to in-person learning this week. Some say they're excited to get back to teaching in their classrooms, but others are choosing to retire or resign because they're concerned about their safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arkansas's new cases of COVID-19 decreased for a third consecutive day. The Department of Health reports 320 new cases and nine additional deaths during the most recent 24-hour monitoring period. Governor Asa Hutchinson said the diminishing numbers are good news for the first day of school, but cautioned there are no future guarantees and Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero said the state needs to continue robust testing. The governor was also asked about a Department of Health data correction that has significantly impacted Washington County's coronavirus positivity rate.

Courtesy / Rogers School District

In-person learning resumed on Monday in many of Arkansas's public schools. We check in with a student on her way to class at Fayetteville High School and we speak with the superintendent of Rogers Public Schools about how the district has been preparing for reopening.

In addition to town and city level COVID-19 data, the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement in Little Rock is now also posting school district data. The interactive map reveals both active and community cases by district. ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson details how it works, and how it will help. 

After four hours of hearing from school and police department officials, as well as the public on Tuesday, the Fayetteville City Council essentially rejected a grant that would have funded two more school resource officers in the Fayetteville School District. While some residents offered their support, critics of the SRO program pointed to statistics that show more than half of the arrests made by Fayetteville SROs since 2016 were of Black students.

Ahead of the first day of school on Monday, we speak with Siloam Springs Schools Superintendent Jody Wiggins about how his district has been preparing for reopening. He says it included launching a virtual academy ahead of schedule.

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