Like everything else this year, Conway Schools’ Annual Report to the Public was influenced by COVID-19 and the impact the pandemic has had on our district. Our enrollment numbers, instructional methods, purchased items, student services, and bottom line budget reflect the unique work we have done during this time, and show a school district responding to the ever-changing circumstances in our community, doing “whatever it takes” to meet the needs of our students and families in these days.
Overall enrollment for CPSD is down this year, and as of October 1, 2020 stands at 9,858 total students for the 2020-21 school year. Last year, enrollment for the 2019-20 school year was 10,117 students. The decrease in students is seen almost exclusively in elementary grades, with around 150 fewer kindergarten and first grade students this year than last. Since school looks different this year, with all students wearing masks and social distancing, some parents may have chosen to keep their younger students home or chosen a different option for school this year. Conway Public Schools offered both virtual and onsite instruction for all students K-12 this year. 34 percent of our students chose the virtual option, with 66 percent returning to school onsite.
This school year 809 students are enrolled in CPSD’s Gifted and Talented Program. Our Special Education Department will serve 1,258 students, and we have 547 students who are English Language Learners in our 16 schools. The district’s free/reduced lunch percentage increased to 53.6 percent this year. This number is used for much more than just student meal status. It qualifies our district and our individual schools for national funding and programs that help our students inside and outside the classroom.
Speaking of lunch, our food service department has been very busy in 2020. When schools across Arkansas shut down in March, they quickly put together a plan to pack and distribute meal boxes for our families during the quarantine. After an overwhelming response the first week, they doubled their efforts again and again until they were passing out more than 1,000 boxes each week through the end of the school year. A total of 250,530 meals were given to CPSD students and their families last spring. Once school started back in August, they began serving students in school cafeterias again; however, they are feeding virtual students as well. Each week, families with virtual learners can go online and order up to 5 breakfasts and 5 lunches per student. The virtual meal boxes are packed by food service workers and ready for drive-thru pickup each Monday.
Conway Public Schools has 1,215 total employees for the 2020-21 school year: 791 of those are certified/licensed staff; 424 are classified staff. Conway is the 9th largest school district in the state, with the 4th highest average teacher salary ($58,388). We work hard to attract and hire the best applicants here in CPSD, and we are very proud of our teachers and staff. We have 44 National Board Certified Teachers, and 69 percent of our certified staff have at least a Master’s Degree. This year our District Teacher of the Year, Susan Henderson, was one of four finalists for the Arkansas State Teacher of the Year. This is our second year in a row to have a finalist for the state designation.
We always include some “fun” statistics in the annual report, so this year’s numbers have a “COVID theme.”
We have 1,496 hand-sanitizing dispensers throughout the district.
So far this year, we have used 87,840 ounces of hand sanitizer and 20,480 ounces of hand soap in our 16 schools.
We have 135 fogging machines that our wonderful custodians use nightly in every school and building to clean and disinfect all surfaces. The cleaner they use has a :30 second “kill claim” on all viruses, including the coronavirus.
Our custodians can fog an average classroom in less than 3 minutes.
This year, we have given 184 internet “hot spots” to families who needed them for virtual instruction. Conway Corporation has partnered with us to provide free internet service to 122 additional families as well.
100 percent of our students are receiving free meals (Breakfast AND lunch) every day thanks to a waiver from the USDA in response to COVID-19. This waiver was recently extended through the end of the school year.
We began using online learning management systems for the first time this year. As of October 1st, there were 227,000 logins to SeeSaw (K-4 platform) and 762,500 logins to Schoology (5-12 platform.) Our “student tech help” email account received around 3,000 emails in the first month of school, as virtual and onsite parents and students acclimated to the new system!
1,490 reusable water bottles have been donated to our schools, thanks to generous community partners. (Water fountains will not be used this year as a health/safety measure.)
Each week, an average of 12 facemasks are found in the lost and found at our elementary schools.
Despite the challenges, closures and changes we have seen in 2020, our students have continued to thrive and our staff has maintained their commitment to excellence each day. We have no shortage of accomplishments to share and to celebrate this year. In fact, in light of the obstacles overcome and the adversity experienced, perhaps this year’s efforts are even more worthy of praise. The district’s annual report serves as a reminder that the quality of work here in CPSD remains constant. We are thankful for the community’s support of Conway Public Schools this year, and always.