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Hope Schools Start Conversation On Re-Entry

By Staff, 06/25/20 10:46 AM

HOPE – An online conversation Tuesday night with parents and stakeholders of the Hope Public Schools kick-started the process for HPS campuses to re-open for the 2020-2021 school year Aug. 13, both on-campus and online.

HPS Superintendent Dr. Bobby Hart made it clear the 2020-2021 school year will look and feel as “normal” as the district and its personnel can accomplish.

“Our goal is to have a normal school day,” Dr. Hart said. “There may have to be a limit to the number of students on the playground or in a classroom at one time. Our goal is to make it as normal a year as possible, however that can be accomplished given the circumstances.”

Hart and HPS administrators fielded more than two dozen questions from parents and patrons of the district during an hour-long live-streamed Facebook “town hall.”

Hart said the district will have its definitive plan for re-entry into the school year ready for public release in early July.

“We will have a plan in place for all of these,” he said of the questions and concerns raised Tuesday night.

Hart emphasized the district is required to abide by Arkansas Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Arkansas Department of Education guidance in fashioning its plan.

Parents and students interested in learning more concerning that guidance may do so online at www.arkansasedu.gov for the ADE; www.cdc.gov for the CDC; and www.arkansas.healthy.gov for the state health department.

He said the district has developed a three-tiered system to handle the process, including executive leadership dealing with legal, financial and workforce matters; rapid response dealing with frequently addressed issues; and, campus response dealing with particulars from each HPS campus though its leadership.

Hart said the district will definitely offer both on-line and on-campus instruction, and allow parents and students options to accommodate either.

“We stand ready to do whatever you want to make sure your child gets an education,” Hart said. “We’re kind of like Burger King; you can have it your way.”

At the same time, he said, the district recognizes the need to keep each student on pace with learning.

“We don’t feel virtual is as good as face-to-face instruction; but, we are going to do what is necessary to be sure a student does not fall behind,” Hart said.

Online software will be provided to students, but Hart emphasized keeping pace with instruction requires parents to remain vigilant and communicate regularly with their student’s teacher.

Hart invited parents, students and patrons with other questions to address them at the special email address established by the district at townhall@hpsdistrict.org online.

Hart said there are certain things in the ADE planning which are known at this point, including the start date for classes Aug. 13; required offering of a virtual learning component; requirement for masks to be provided to students ages 10 and up; and, a required screening process for facilities and transportation.

Questions and response information provided were as follows:

WILL FACE MASKS BE REQUIRED, AND PROVIDED BY THE DISTRICT?

–ADH and CDC guidance recommend it of children ages 10 and up.

–The district will provide three cloth masks per student that become the student’s responsibility.

WILL MASKS BE REQUIRED FOR ATHLETICS, AND WHEN WILL ATHLETICS RE-OPEN?

–Arkansas Athletics Association guidance requires all student athletes and coaches to wear face masks.

–Athletics workouts will begin July 6.

HOW WILL CLASSES BE ARRANGED FOR SOCIAL DISTANCING?

–ADH/CDC guidance recommends social distancing where feasible and possible.

–HPS will make classroom adjustments to accommodate social distancing; and take other precautions where possible.

WILL STUDENTS WHO DO NOT WEAR THEIR MASK BE DISCIPLINED?

–ADH/CDC guidance requires the provision of masks for children ages 10 and up.

–Parents should emphasize the importance of the precaution to their children.

WILL CLASS SIZES BE LIMITED?

–At present, there is no intention to adjust or limit class sizes per ADE standards and COVID-19 guidance.

–Some classrooms may be “re-arranged” to accommodate social distancing.

–The impact upon campus attendance from online attendance may provide more space.

WILL STUDENTS BE PERMITTED TO WEAR THEIR PERSONAL MASK TO CLASS?

–Personal masks are permitted as long as they are not a disruptive influence or are in some manner offensive.

–Personal masks must meet CDC guidelines.

HOW WILL TRANSITIONS BETWEEN CLASSES BE HANDLED?

–Limiting social interaction throughout the day will be important; therefore, fewer class changes during the day may be required.

–Classrooms will be disinfected as frequently as feasible and possible between class periods throughout the day.

–Parents are asked to remind their students that personal items such as pens, pencils, etc., not be shared with other students.

HOW WILL LUNCH PERIODS BE HANDLED?

–Current state and federal guidance requires usage of cafeteria and other common areas at no more than 60 percent of capacity at one time.

–Lunch periods may be adjusted to accommodate guidance.

–Goal is to make such changes “more workable” rather than inconvenient.

WILL BUS BOARDING SCREENIGS BE REQUIRED?

–District planning will reflect a specific protocol for boarding and riding buses.

–Parents are asked to emphasize the importance of face coverings for their student.

–Social distancing will be employed as part of the district’s transportation plan.

WILL STUDENTS BE ALLOWED TO BRING SACK LUNCHES AND PERSONAL DISINFECTANT TO CAMPUS? – Yes.

HOW WILL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL RECESS AND PHYSICAL EDUCATION BE AFFECTED?

–Normalcy is the goal; although certain limitations on numbers of students may require shifting scheduled times.

HOW WILL ONLINE INSTRUCTION KEEP PACE WITH ON CAMPUS INSTRUCTION?

–District will establish a “virtual academy” platform.

–Each class will have an aligned syllabus for online and on campus instruction.

IF A STUDENT BECOMES SICK AT SCHOOL, HOW WILL THAT BE HANDLED, AND WHEN CAN THEY RETURN TO CLASS?

–District will follow ADH/CDC guidance for protocols related to COVID-19.

–Students typically are isolated and parents are contacted in any instance of illness.

WHAT PERCENTAGE OF COVID-19 CASES WILL REQUIRE A CAMPUS CLOSURE?

–Any COVID-19 campus closure will be determined by ADH/CDC guidance and considered on a campus-by-campus basis.

IS THERE A DEADLINE TO DECLARE ONLINE OR ON-CAMPUS CHOICE?

–Currently, state and federal guidance allows for students to opt-in or opt-out of choices at any time, and in multiple instances.

–The district currently has no deadline in place, pending normal deadlines for the start of school.

HOW WILL A POSITIVE COVID-19 CASE ON A CAMPUS AFFECT OTHER STUDENTS ON CAMPUS AT THE TIME?

–A finding of fever “only” does not equate to a “positive” COVID-19 case; however, any case exhibiting symptoms per ADH guidance will require the ADH to make a determination.

WILL HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS WHO DRIVE BE ALLOWED TO CAR SHARE?

–Car sharing will be a parental decision.

WILL THE DISTRICT PROVIDE DISINFECTANT WIPES IN CLASSROOMS?

–Yes; and, the state will provide certain other “personal protective equipment” for classrooms.

WILL THE DISTRICT PROVIDE REGULAR SCHOOL SUPPLIES FOR STUDENTS THIS YEAR? – Yes.

HOW WILL HOPE COLLEGIATE ACADEMY STUDENTS, PARTICULARLY SENIORS, BE AFFECTED?

–Hope Collegiate and Professional Academy students should work with University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana administration regarding their status and return to class requirements.

WILL SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES BE CURTAILED OR AFFECTED ADVERSELY?

–Special education services will be provided.

–Special education students who are online will be provided services without disruption.

Hart said a second town hall session is planned to address other questions which may arise, and a date and participation information will be announced.