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FORT SMITH -- The Fort Smith School District is working on how to provide services to students despite being closed due to the coronavirus.

The district met with other community leaders Thursday, shortly before Gov. Asa Hutchinson extended his order to keep public schools closed for in-person instruction through April 17. Originally, students would have returned to school March 30.

Fort Smith School District Superintendent Doug Brubaker said Thursday that one of the things he is most gratified and excited about in these circumstances is how the educators across the district have taken and built upon an Alternative Method of Instruction plan that was originally designed for snow days to make it more meaningful.

"And so, we're seeing, if you look out on Twitter, our teachers are leading videoconferences with students several times a day and consulting with them about how things are going, and we have nurses checking on students and educators," Brubaker said. "I mean, every employee type is involved in something, and ... because so many of our employees have internet at home, we're able to perform a lot of functions remotely."

Brubaker said internet at home is probably the district's biggest challenge in terms of being able to continue operations.

Terry Morawski, deputy superintendent for the Fort Smith School District, said the district is currently looking at how it could use buses to extend its meal service for students into neighborhoods. The logistics of this are still in development.

The district is also looking at what it is currently calling "a mobile help center." This would be a way for school district employees to go out and provide services and answer questions.

"It's still a work in progress, but that's something we want to look at, and so we can still get out and serve our community even if they're in their homes and not able to join us at the school," Morawski said.

Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken said through city employee Jurena Storm that the city would be offering two of its transit buses, as well as its census bus, to assist with food delivery to the students.

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Jerry Glidewell, executive director of the Fort Smith Boys & Girls Club, said his organization started a Grab-and-Go meal service at its four units Thursday that includes breakfast and lunch. The boys and girls club plans to continue this service through this week, when the school district would normally be on Spring Break.

A covid-19 update posted on the Fort Smith School District website states the four units are the Stephens Boys & Girls Club at 3101 N. 6th St., the Jeffrey Boys & Girls Club at 4905 N. "O" St., the Goldtrap Boys & Girls Club at 8800 S. Dallas St. and the Evans Boys & Girls Club at 6015 Boys Club Lane. Children 18 years of age and younger can eat for free while adults can purchase breakfast for $1 and lunch for $2.

Eddie Lee Herndon, president and CEO of United Way of Fort Smith Area, provided information on the new 211 call center for Sebastian, Crawford, Logan, Franklin, and Scott Counties that his group launched with the United Way of Northwest Arkansas.

Others who spoke at the meeting included Fort Smith Mayor George McGill; Whitney Yoder, Arkansas public relations manager for Cox Communications; Susan Devero, executive director of communications and community relations for the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education; and Kevin A. Thompson, lead pastor at Community Bible Church.

SundayMonday on 03/23/2020

Print Headline: District plans for extended closure

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