An extension to the Little Rock School District's face mask requirement, vaccination incentives for students and strategies for making up missed class days are on a busy School Board meeting agenda for Thursday.
The regular monthly meeting comes after Superintendent Mike Poore's video message to parents on Sunday in which he held out hope that the number of covid-19 cases among students and teachers in district schools is on the decline.
"We're not done with January but the trend line looks good," Poore said.
All Little Rock district campuses were able to open Monday for on-site instruction, although some individual classrooms reverted to online lessons.
Poore reported that the capital city district recorded 468 covid-19 cases last week -- a drop of about 100 from the previous week of January 9-14.
Between the beginning of January and this past Sunday, the district has had 1,368 covid cases, well above the 763 cases between last July 1 and Christmas, and even above the 1,287 cases reported in January through December 2021, he said.
In regard to covid-19, Poore and his staff are recommending that the School Board approve the following Thursday:
• Extend the district's face mask-wearing mandate through the end of the third quarter of the school year, with the School Board to reconsider the requirement at its March 17 meeting.
• Authorize the distribution of $50 gift cards as incentives to students to become fully vaccinated against covid-19 by March 18 at a potential cost of more than $1 million to the district.
• Extend the district's covid-19 sick leave plan for employees -- which preserves an employee's regular sick leave time -- through at least the end of the third quarter. It would be reviewed by the board again March 17.
• Enable the superintendent to amend the school district calendar to schedule make-up time for days in which campuses had to be closed for covid-19 cases or inclement weather, beyond the 10 alternative method of instruction days that count as school days.
The state allows a district to count up to 10 days of remote online instruction as alternative method of instruction days, which do not have to be made up. But schools that have to close for more than 10 days because of covid-19 cases or inclement weather have to make up the days later in the school year.
No Little Rock school has used up those remote-instruction alternative method of instruction days, but some are getting close. Southwest High, for example, has already used nine alternative methods of instruction days.
Poore and his staff have raised the possibility of making school days longer as a way to make up for missed instruction time.
Also on the agenda for Thursday night is a proposal for the district to make concurrent credit high school/college courses available to students at all five high schools.
Another agenda item is a board decision on whether to require all nine School Board seats to be open for election in November in light of recent revisions made to School Board election zone boundary lines.
The election zone boundary lines were adjusted moderately to equalize the populations in each election zone based on 2020 U.S. Census data.
Attorneys for the district have advised the board that a new election for each board seat this year is not required by the law as the law applies to the Little Rock School District. The board can chose to proceed with the original plan to have two seats -- representing Zones 8 and 9 -- open for election.
This week's 5:30 p.m. School Board meeting is not open to in-person attendance but can be seen online and on television.
The viewing options are YouTube livestream, LRSDTV.org, or LRSD TV as shown in Little Rock on Comcast Channel 4 and U-verse Channel 99.
People may submit written comment to the board prior to the meeting or can present comments live on the Zoom meeting platform. Information on how to do that is available on the district's website: lrsd.org.