Little Rock Superintendent Mike Poore on Wednesday unveiled plans on how the district will continue to provide academic instruction to students through at least April 17 while school buildings remain closed to in-person teaching.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson last month directed that all public school buildings be closed for five weeks — including spring break — to the state’s 479,000 public school students as a way to slow the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.
As permitted by state law, the Little Rock district and most school systems in the state put into use “alternative methods of instruction” lessons that enable students to do their school work at home in consultation with their teachers by phone, email or other online forms of communication.
The Little Rock district had 10 days of lessons prepared, either in packets that were sent home to pupils at the elementary school level or online lessons for middle and high school students. As those lessons will be completed this week, Poore said Wednesday afternoon it is necessary to move into “phase 2” of at-home instruction through April 17 or beyond if school buildings don’t reopen then.
In kindergarten through sixth grades, phase 2 calls for students and teachers to move away from the paper packages of lessons and use the itsLearning online instructional platform, Poore said. Teachers will be given training on Friday on how to use the online system that will focus on math and literacy but will weave in social studies, science, art and music. There is a daily physical education component, as well.
The use of itsLearning will commence on Tuesday, Poore said, to allow for the teacher training on Friday and the distribution of Chromebooks or other electronic devices to any student who needs them on Monday. Pupils in kindergarten through eighth grades should use the broadcast lessons on Arkansas PBS on Friday and Monday, in advance of the itsLearning on Tuesday, Poore said.
The middle and high school students — including high school seniors — will use a different virtual platform, Edmentum.
Poore said that high school seniors must continue to do lessons in the core academic subjects and in their preparations for Advanced Placement and concurrent credit exams before their final day of school on May 8.
Seniors who are passing their elective courses as of the end of the third grading period last month are considered finished with those courses, he said.
The district’s more than 1,000 prekindergarten pupils will continue to use prepared lessons on paper, Poore said in the Wednesday afternoon video presentation.
The online learning programs will enable district teachers to continue to work with their students and to monitor student participation in the lessons. Efforts will be made by teachers to reach students who do not participate. Grades will be given for student work, Poore said.
Poore urged students and parents to set up structured educational time between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., which are the hours of the city of Little Rock’s juvenile curfew.
He also urged all students under 18 and living in Little Rock — regardless of whether they are enrolled in public or private schools — to take advantage of the breakfast, lunch and dinner meals that are available to them through partnerships between the school district and civic organizations.
Poore said he believes the grab-and-go meal distribution program in Little Rock — which even occurred during spring break — is unsurpassed in any urban area in the nation.