Arkansas' public schools and districts have made 179 shifts to virtual instruction since the start of the second semester of the school year last week.
Of the 179 shifts, 77.7% were for an entire school district, while the remaining were for a campus or a grade at a campus, according to data recorded by the Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The school and district transitions to online instruction have occurred during the latest surge in covid-19 cases and quarantines, but at least 27 of the 179 shifts were made necessary by utility outages or a winter storm that affected the northeast part of the state last week.
The report on the use of the remote instruction comes at a time when the state is seeing daily, record-breaking numbers of covid-19 illness, which is hindering the ability of some school systems to maintain adequate staff for teaching and transporting students as well as for providing school meals.
Dozens of Arkansas districts are using remote instruction at the end of this week, paired with the Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday holiday on Monday, to interrupt the cycle of covid transmission, Arkansas Education Secretary Johnny Key told the Arkansas Board of Education at its meeting Thursday.
Fayetteville, Pine Bluff, Russellville and El Dorado are among the most recent districts that notified parents of plans to pivot to remote instruction for one or more days this week. Rogers, Clarksville, Perryville, Atkins, Carlisle, East End, Bald Knob and Strong-Huttig are other districts that announced shifts to remote instruction.
Others are Texarkana, Cabot and Conway, which gave the notice earlier in the week.
In Pulaski County. the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special districts closed schools to on-site instruction last week and earlier this week but -- with the exception of several Little Rock campuses -- resumed on-site instruction Wednesday.
The Little Rock district opened the majority of its campuses for on-site instruction with the exception of nine that continued with remote instruction. Those nine campuses have grown to about 15 -- including Central High, Bale Elementary, Forest Heights STEM Academy and Wakefield Elementary -- as of Thursday afternoon.
The North Little Rock district opened its campuses Wednesday but gave parents the choice of using virtual, asynchronous instruction in which students would watch recorded lessons and not interact with their teachers in real time.
The schools that are pivoting to remote instruction are using some of their 10 allotted alternative method of instruction days, which count as school days and don't have to be made up later.
Once the 10 AMI days are used, the districts and schools will have to make up the missed days later in the spring, Key said.