“This is not a change in our stance at all since March when the governor made the announcement to close schools for on-site instruction,” said Arkansas’ Education Secretary Johnny Key during a press briefing. “We have said since Day One that the plan for the fall is to come back and have school on-site.”
“We had been made aware that some districts were making plans that were for fewer than five days [per week], and we felt like that clarification was needed today to make sure that districts understood we do have a state responsibility,” Key continued.
In response to districts’ reopening plans to reduce the number of days of on-campus, face-to-face learning, Key issued a clarification memo (pdf) Wednesday, requiring most school districts in the state to offer a full week of in-person learning experience for all students, unless otherwise advised by the Arkansas Department of Health.
“Arkansas Constitution requires the State to provide a general, suitable, and efficient system of free public schools, meaning a substantially equal opportunity for an adequate education,” read the memo. “School districts not affording onsite educational opportunities each day creates inequity that impedes the state from ensuring its responsibility is met.”
The memo also requires districts that operate on five-day schedules but only offer in-person learning on four of those days to open on the fifth day “for students to participate as needed or to access needed resources for instruction, interventions and therapy.” Similarly, districts that only open three days for in-person learning must be open for the other two days for students to interact or to get resources they need.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson supported the directive, saying that schools staying open five days a week is essential to parents who find it hard to rejoin workforce while taking care of children learning from home.
“How to you go to work two days…with kids at home leaning virtual? Because that has to have some parental supervision,” the Republican governor said during a press conference Wedneday. “If they’re learning virtual, particularly the younger grades, and even the higher grades, you don’t leave them in the house alone. You have to have some supervision there.”
“And so it really impacts the workflow, and that’s what I’ve heard from the parents that are concerned about that schedule,” said Hutchinson.