Conway Public Schools will begin school on-site as scheduled Aug. 13 with restrictions and with an option for virtual instruction, Superintendent Greg Murry announced Wednesday.
Parents will have the option to send their kids to school for on-site learning or to “receive their education in virtual environment” from home with a computer and a curriculum the school district has approved, Murry said, noting it would be more advanced than the virtual lessons the district scrambled to offer when the state mandated the closing of schools in March. All virtual schoolwork will be monitored by a Conway Public Schools teacher.
“We learned a whole lot over the spring in terms of what we needed to do and what we didn’t need to do,” the superintendent said.
The district planned to send the information announced Wednesday to parents that evening. It will send a survey in mid-July asking whether their children will be doing on-site or virtual learning.
“We need to know if you’re coming or not,” Murry said, so the district can plan for the number of students.
“The survey will give more details about both options. Once the parent survey is completed, we will move forward with returning registration and what you’ll need to finalize your plans for August,” officials said in a notice sent to parents.
The district received guidance from the state’s Department of Education and Department of Health regarding social distancing and face coverings.
“We are not going to require that everyone wear masks 100 percent of the time. We are strongly encouraging everyone to wear masks – teachers, staff and students,” Murry said, noting the district will be taking “several precautionary measures.”
He said there will be social distancing in the classrooms “as much as possible.”
The district will have “lots of hand sanitizer” on hand and crews will be sanitizing classrooms, hallways, cafeterias, etc.
“School is going to be different this year because of COVID-19,” Murry said.
Parents who aren’t comfortable sending their children back for on-site learning simply need to indicate that in the survey and the child will not be penalized. Parents who want their child to wear a mask continually while at school need to let the district know, and it will accommodate them.
Murry said that after receiving guidance from the state, he doesn’t foresee a mandatory closure.
“We don’t believe there will be a statewide closing again,” he said, adding the district will be prepared in case of a regional closing or if students are out due to quarantine. “We’re working on a way to smoothly move kids in and out of school, in case we close or they need to quarantine.”
He said CPS teachers are currently in training for the new guidelines and the virtual learning environment.
“We’re looking forward to seeing your children on Aug. 13,” Murry said.
Murry also discussed the possibility of an on-site graduation ceremony on July 18 at the football stadium for the graduating class of 2020, which he said would be “very difficult.”
Because seating must be spaced out six feet and because some venues, including Simmons Arena in Little Rock, are not open, the district was limited to where it could have graduation and only the football stadium met the requirements. Murry said the weather will likely be “very hot” and that “everyone must wear masks 100 percent of the time.”
He has sent a request for approval to state officials and, if it’s approved, he will then send a survey to parents of graduating seniors to see if they want to have an on-site ceremony under those conditions.
“If we have critical mass of students still interested in having a graduation, we will do it. Because of the heat, we will abbreviate the ceremony,” Murry said.