The New Classroom

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.

Episode Two of The New Classroom includes seven reports produced by Ozarks at Large staff from the end of October through the week before Thanksgiving. The stories cover the Arkansas Department of Education's efforts to reengage students who have not reported for class, women leaving the workforce to teach and care for their children, the challenges of taking college entrance exams during a pandemic, surging enrollment at the state's public charter schools and more.

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 / Arkansas Arts Academy

Along with hundreds of traditional school districts in Arkansas, there are also two dozen public-enrollment charter districts, which are classified as free experimental learning environments. According to new enrollment data, while traditional districts in Arkansas have lost over 6,000 students due to the pandemic, charter school districts are surging in enrollment.

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. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic was detected in the U.S., the share of women in the workforce has fallen to levels not seen since 1988. Data shows women not only lost the most jobs since the start of the outbreak, but they are also exhausted from performing most of the childcare and household responsibilities, so some are choosing to leave their jobs.

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.