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Elementary, middle schools in Jacksonville will go to online instruction for week

by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette | November 11, 2020 at 5:20 p.m.
FILE — This 2015 file photo shows public school buses. (AP Photo/File)

Murrell Taylor Elementary School will shift to online instruction for one week, beginning Friday.

The Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District said in an announcement Wednesday that a staff member tested positive for covid-19, prompting 15 students and seven staff employees to quarantine at home for 14 days. Because of the effect of the quarantines and reduced staffing levels, the district said it decided to temporarily go digital-only through Nov. 20. Students will use their district-provided Chromebooks for instruction.

The subsequent week is Thanksgiving break, and Nov. 30 is a pre-scheduled all-virtual instruction day, meaning students and staff won't report back to campus until Dec. 1.

Earlier, the district announced a similar situation for Jacksonville Middle School. In that case, the campus will be closed Thursday through the rest of the month.

At both Murrell Taylor Elementary and Jacksonville Middle, families who need to send their children to school can do so. The school will have services available on campus, and students will complete virtual classes on campus under supervision. Bus routes and food service will operate as normal during the campus closure days.

In the neighboring Pulaski County Special School District, the administration announced that Harris Elementary School in the McAlmont community just east of North Little Rock is shifting to all-online for the rest of the week.

The Pulaski County Special district said it will "reassess the need to extend virtual instruction" beyond that date.

"Harris Elementary has quarantined an increasing number of students and staff in a short period of time who have been identified as probable close contacts. Although the number of actual positive cases for covid-19 are low, we want to ensure that all students and staff remain healthy and safe," the district said in a news release.

The Pulaski County Special district would not publicly disclose the number of cases.

Parents who want their child to have the available two-day meal box should call the school at (501) 234-5607 before 8 a.m. Thursday. Pick-up time is from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m. at the school's main entrance, 4424 Arkansas 161 in McAlmont, which adjoins the east end of North Little Rock.

Certified and classified staff who are not on quarantine must report to the campus each day, the district said. The teachers will teach from their classrooms.

This story has been updated. An earlier version follows.

12:07 p.m.: Jacksonville Middle School makes temporary shift to online classes, district says

Jacksonville Middle School will hold all classes via virtual instruction through Nov. 20, officials said Wednesday morning.

The Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District said the shift to online, which begins Thursday, is because of a lack of enough staff and the effect of quarantining due to the coronavirus pandemic. Mondays will continue to be an all-virtual instruction day as originally designated.

The district office and all campuses will be closed the week of Nov. 23-27 for Thanksgiving break. Students will return to class districtwide Nov. 30, which is a Monday and therefore an already scheduled all-virtual day, said Cheesa Williams, marketing and communications coordinator for the district. All campuses, including the middle school, will reopen Dec. 1.

The district said that if parents must send their children to the school building during this period, services will be available on the campus so that students can complete virtual classes in a supervised environment. Bus routes and food service will operate as normal throughout the period, the district said in a news release.

The announcement of the shift to virtual followed an earlier statement by the district, which said the district had learned that a staff member at Jacksonville Middle School tested positive for covid-19.

"The positive case has resulted in nine students being sent home and quarantined for 14 days, per [the Arkansas Department of Health] directive," the district said.

The district said it will not provide identifying information, citing the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

Students had already been given Chromebooks, enabling them to work online whether from home or at school and make an easy transition from in-person instruction to virtual instruction, according to the district.

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