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COVID-19 and schools: Hope Public Schools optimistic going into spring semester

Education

HOPE, Ark. (KTAL/KMSS)- Hope Public Schools started off as traditional as possible with both learning and in-person and virtual learning options available, but as the semester went on they had to adjust their plan.

According to Superintendent Bobby Hart, it’s not about results on a state test but about protecting people, mentally, emotionally, and socially.

“Number one we realized that teachers and students needed some time to get acclimated and work in the remote setting, so we started about a month ago with the idea of flex Fridays,” said Hart.

Flex Fridays give staff extra time to develop lessons, offering students and parents the opportunity to get extra help. The school district has implemented tech nights for virtual families and call centers for the Hope Schools community, funded by the CARES Act.

“Just another way to give access,” said Hart.

Hart says before the semester started, the whole district was disinfected by a professional company.
Today, teachers and staff continue to deep clean classrooms, buses, and contact surfaces daily.

“I can tell you that our transmission rates at school are relatively low, very low. We don’t know that it’s that much transmission for a teacher to student, student to teacher, student to student.”

With less than thirty percent currently taking virtual classes by choice, the superintendent says being able to contact trace is key.

“We have been really conscious about promoting mask-wearing and talking about social distancing.”

Students are still able to participate in extracurricular activities for now, as long as they remain in compliance with CDC guidelines. Hart says the community responded well when coming to show support, but as football season ends and basketball begins, there are some concerns about the capacity inside the gym.

“You know football is outdoors the capacity is greater, it’s easier to social distance. If our numbers keep rising by the state, it may be something we need to consider. I don’t want shut athletics
down.”

Overall, Hart says he is confident that they are doing the right thing to keep everyone safe. The biggest issue has been teachers being in and out of quarantine, causing the school district to close its doors for on-site instruction a week before Thanksgiving.

He says now no more than two people can be in the copy room together or the teacher lounge area.

Going into the spring semester, the district says they will keep up the same strategy, remaining optimistic that the semester will end on a positive note.

Hart says it is important to make things as normal as possible for their student’s emotional and intellectual safety.

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