For our final conversation of 2020, Michael Tilley, with our partner Talk Business and Politics, discusses flood-related repairs in Fort Smith, a program to help students failing high school classes and an eventual tax hike on some alcohol sales in the area.

Courtesy / Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

The J.B. and Johnelle Hunt Family Ozark Highlands Nature Center opens to the public Dec. 11. The grand opening Dec. 10 will be livestreamed on Facebook. The new center features exhibits, indoor classrooms, an indoor archery and airgun range, pavilions, trails and 25 acres of restored prairie.

Courtesy / Springdale School District

Two days before the Thanksgiving holiday, the superintendent of the Springdale School District announced all schools would be pivoting to remote learning until Dec. 7. Superintendent Jarred Cleveland said there were too many staff who had tested positive for COVID-19 or had to be quarantined due to possible exposure that they weren't sure there would be enough substitute teachers to fill those roles for a number of days.

Courtesy / Fort Smith Public Schools

Three months into the school year, we check in with two teachers we spoke with ahead of the start of the school year in August. One is a French teacher at Fayetteville High School, the other is a fourth grade teacher at Ballman Elementary School in Fort Smith. They discuss the added workload, student compliance with safety measures and their concerns about the upcoming holidays.

Courtesy / Inside Higher Ed

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt education, high school students applying for college are facing more challenges. While many universities are dropping mandatory standardized test scores for admissions, students may still need them to apply for scholarships or receive financial aid.

This month, the Siloam Springs School District has had to transition to virtual learning at two of its schools for two weeks because of COVID-19. According to Superintendent Jody Wiggins, the virus was spreading among staff at Northside Elementary, which shut down on Nov. 2, and among students at the Intermediate School, which shut down on Nov. 9.

J. Froelich / KUAF

Ozark Mountain Farm and Forest School, established two years ago in Northwest Arkansas, provides preschoolers a playful head start in ecology, sustainability and cooperative self-reliance. We tour the school campus, with founder Alaina Davidson, to learn about her novel preschool. 

Courtesy / Arkansas Center for Health Improvement

School district “red zones” where COVID-19 infections are concentrated in local communities — tracked and mapped by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement — are increasing across the state as the pandemic worsens, the center says.  The color-coded school district state map, which is refreshed every Thursday provide superintendents, teachers, staff and parents clear guidance on taking protective measures. 

Courtesy / NWACC

As colleges fight to contain the spread of COVID-19 with virtual classes and reduced on-campus activites, 2020 fall enrollment numbers are declining across the board, but, according to a report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, community colleges are taking the biggest hit. Northwest Arkansas Community College announced last month its enrollment dropped by 12 percent from fall 2019.

Courtesy / Annie Clapper / Yonnie Lucas

At this point, school has been in session for two months during the pandemic. We spoke with Yonnie Lucas and her son, Jake, and Annie Clapper and her daughter, Hazel, a few days after school resumed in August. Jake is going to school in person at Greenland Elementary and Hazel is learning virtually at Bentonville School District. We check back in with both families to find out how the school year is going.