Students, teachers and parents have adapted to the challenges created by COVID-19. Last year, Arkansas educators were forced to teach online in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. As classrooms were shifted to virtual learning, Arkansas Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) rose to the occasion to provide crucial resources and help students continue their coursework. The work of the Arkansas PBS team was recently recognized nationally.

The National Education Telecommunications Association (NETA) announced it has bestowed five national Public Media Awards on Arkansas PBS including honors for overall excellence for the programing it provided to children, parents and teachers through Arkansas AMI (Alternative Methods of Instructions).

As the COVID-19 emergency progressed in March 2020, Arkansas PBS upended its weekday schedule and began broadcasting streamlined, curriculum-based programming for children from Pre-K through 8th grade.

When schools first closed in Arkansas, educators were immediately challenged by the lack of internet access in many rural areas of the state. This made the Arkansas AMI project even more important. For many without computers at home, the programming provided by Arkansas PBS became their classroom.

I am proud of the partnership between Arkansas PBS and the Arkansas Department of Education which offered students a way to keep learning when they couldn’t be at school. This effort was possible because of a longstanding relationship between the broadcast network and education officials who have worked together for many years. With a strong foundation in place, they were quickly and creatively able to pivot and provide classroom learning on a network of stations that reached 76 percent of the state with a simple over-the-air signal. The programming was also available on cable and satellite, live-streaming, on-demand and various apps that families could access on mobile devices.

I am proud of these devoted Arkansans who rose to meet an incredible challenge and I am grateful for the work they do every day to make education in our state a priority. We appreciate the hardworking staff of Arkansas PBS and celebrate their accomplishments which reflect so well on the organization and its service to our state.

Arkansas PBS has continually demonstrated its commitment to the community and has worked to champion and share the stories of people across the state. The station has been a leader in efforts to improve the lives of veterans through its advocacy campaigns, especially those aimed at reducing veteran suicide, and has done an incredible job sharing their stories of service and sacrifice in partnership with the Veterans History Project (VHP).

For the launch of the Ken Burns documentary “The Vietnam War” in 2017, the station collaborated with my office to promote the VHP, hosting events across the state and inviting my staff to talk about this initiative to collect and preserve the memories of veterans as part of its programming.

VHP Director Col. (ret.) Karen Lloyd experienced first-hand the enthusiasm of Arkansas PBS staff during her visit to our state that same year where she met with veterans and volunteers who have contributed to the collection.

Arkansas PBS has been dedicated to sharing its collection of veteran interviews with the VHP. Last year members of the executive team met with Director Lloyd and donated 20 interviews of Arkansans. The interviews had been conducted 15 years prior for a special series and were transferred to digital format to meet the requirements for inclusion in the VHP.

For these reasons and many more, we can be proud of the success of Arkansas PBS and its efforts to keep citizens informed, engaged and educated.

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