Blytheville moves to virtual on Fridays

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Beginning Friday, Oct. 23, Blytheville School District will have “Virtual Fridays” for students in grades 3-12, with students working from home on Fridays, according to a calendar revision approved by the Blytheville School Board Wednesday night.

Students in grades 3-12 needing additional help will still have the option to attend in person on Virtual Fridays.

Students in kindergarten, and first and second grades will go half days on Virtual Friday.

They will be dismissed at 11 a.m., with a to-go lunch after finishing with direct instruction in literacy and math. Buses will run regular routes to get them home and any students who are at other campuses can be transported home by bus at that time.

If any K-2 students must stay until normal dismissal because of childcare issues at home, the paraprofessionals will provide supervision for them at the school, according to Blytheville superintendent Bobby Ashley.

This does not impact the already scheduled Virtual Learning Days in the school calendar where all students will be learning from home while teachers have conferences with parents or have professional learning opportunities: Nov. 19, Jan. 4, Feb. 12, and March 18.

There will be “no new learning” on Virtual Friday, Ashley said.

“It’s not a day off, and I think you know that,” he said, adding teachers will still be engaged with students, and it provides a way for students to catch up on work and receive additional assistance, and allow for a broader disinfection of district facilities.

“Our teachers are in a vulnerable state right now,” Ashley said, noting they have additional duties and have concerns they will get COVID-19.

“It is really weighing on all of our employees, me included.”

Ashley said Virtual Fridays would not eliminate the option of having students on campus that day.

“In fact, students at Blytheville Primary grades K-2 will be expected to be on campus for ˝ day on Virtual Friday because the importance of consistency in early learning for that age group is critical, but at the other three schools no new learning will take place on campus,” he said. “Making Fridays a virtual learning day would allow us to continue the Tenaris Afterschool Program Monday through Thursday which provides an important additional two hours a day of intervention and enrichment for participating students in K-5 and is sponsored financially by a local industry that expects us to provide it four days a week.”

Meals will be available for those onsite and offsite with the same system that has been used for previous virtual days.

Ashley said the plan has been approved by the Arkansas Department of Education.

“Virtual Friday will allow for a deeper cleaning once a week of all district facilities and lessen the exposure to larger numbers of students reducing some of the anxiety of staff members,” he said.

Meanwhile, also in the special meeting, the school board approved the district’s Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education Minority Teacher and Administrator Recruitment Plan.