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Schools continue adapting for virus

Virtual learning is much in play by Jaime Adame | January 16, 2021 at 3:39 a.m.
FILE — The exterior of Sylvan Hills High School is shown in this 2020 file photo.

The pandemic continues to affect public schools in the state, both large and small.

Four schools in the Pulaski County Special School District will offer only virtual learning all of next week, the district announced Friday.

The decision continues a pivot first announced Monday for Sylvan Hills and Robinson middle schools, and it also extends a switch to virtual learning announced Jan. 8 for Landmark Elementary. And the district previously announced a switch at Cato Elementary to only virtual instruction through next week.

"The schools continue to have an increased number of staff and students under quarantine who are identified as close contacts," said the district, which enrolls 11,801 students, according to state data.

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Bearden School District in south-central Arkansas has 488 students, but generally no more than half are attending at any one time since classes picked up again Jan. 4 after winter break, said Superintendent Denny Rozenberg.

The district for the past two weeks has put students into two groups so that each student grouping attends in-person classes two days per week. A fifth day, in a typical week, has been a virtual day for all students.

Rozenberg said Friday that covid-19 has hit the community hard, with the district mourning the covid-related deaths of paraprofessional Brenda Ford and a just-retired member of the school cafeteria staff, Opal Martin.

Ford "was our most senior employee," Rozenberg said. Published obituary information for Ford gave her age as 67 when she died Dec. 26.

Rozenberg said Martin retired at the end of last year and died Thursday.

"It's hitting some older people in the community," he said.

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Ouachita County, which includes Bearden, has had 30 confirmed and eight probable deaths from covid-19, according to the state Department of Health's covid-19 dashboard. The county has an estimated population of 23,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Perryville High School on Thursday announced that it was switching to virtual instruction next week, with students set to return Jan. 25.

"We have had a significant increase in cases and quarantines over the past couple of days," said a message from Superintendent Walt Davis posted on social media. Perryville is about 40 miles northwest of Little Rock.

The North Little Rock School District on Friday announced that its North Little Rock Academy, an Alternative Learning Environment program for 6th through 12th grades, will offer just virtual instruction next week.

The Little Rock School District on Friday reported having seven new cases of covid-19 over a recent 24-hour period, including two staff cases and five student cases. The district's Williams Elementary School plans to return to in-person learning Tuesday.


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