District reveals plans for school year

Jacksonville/North Pulaski says students must wear masks, keep their distance

A classroom is shown in this 2015 file photo.
A classroom is shown in this 2015 file photo.

LITTLE ROCK -- The Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District will require masks for most students, create social distancing measures in classrooms and cafeterias, and take temperatures of students and staff members during the coming school year.

Cleaning agents and other sanitizers, including hospital-grade disinfectants, will be used in school buildings and buses.

The measures are among the precautionary steps the district plans to use as it approaches the start of the 2020-21 academic year and tries to contain the spread of the highly contagious and potentially fatal coronavirus. The first day of classes is set for Aug. 13.

Public schools closed their classrooms in mid-March and instruction -- a combination of paper lesson plans and online education programs -- shifted to at-home for the remainder of the school year. For the coming academic year, state Education Secretary Johnny Key told districts to prepare for a combination of in-person and online education.

Under the Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District's plan for opening its schools, the district is offering parents a choice: They can send their children to school or keep them at home as online-education students.

The district said masks "should be worn" by all staff members and all students who are in grades 3-12, including those riding school buses. Masks for pre-kindergartners-through-second-graders "are recommended and can be worn if manageable" in school buildings and buses, according to the district's letter.

At each school, physical distancing will be practiced. During class changes, the district said, students "will be expected to wear face coverings." Classrooms, cafeterias and other spaces will be rearranged "to the extent practical" to create spacing recommendations. Staff members, students and visitors will have their temperatures checked daily.

School cafeterias will operate at 50%-66% capacity to create physical distancing space during meal times. In some cases, the district said, breakfasts and lunches will be offered in classrooms.

The district said it plans to keep arrival and dismissal times as normal as possible, but changes could occur based on how many families choose to have their children ride school buses.

Elementary pupils will participate in activity classes and recess time. Secondary students will have access to activities and athletics, but band and choir activities are still unknowns. The district says it is waiting for guidance from the Arkansas Department of Health and Arkansas Department of Education.

Online instruction would be carried out if schools again close temporarily, forcing students to learn from home.

Full-time online students will receive instruction facilitated by district teachers using Google Classroom, Edgenuity and other resources.

The district said:

• Attendance will be taken.

• Lessons will be graded as required.

• The course work will use the curriculum aligned with state standards.

The district asks that parents who choose the virtual learning option for their children commit to it for at least one semester.

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