Resources for School Districts
End-of-Year COVID-19 Guidance for Schools
As vaccines continue to become more readily available to Arkansans and data support a downward trend in the number of positive COVID cases in the state, mitigation efforts that were once state directives have been converted to guidance, effective April 1, 2021. The CDC has also updated requirements for physical distancing to allow for a minimum distance of 3 feet in a classroom setting. In response, districts must review current policies and make decisions regarding how they will implement operational changes, particularly to mask-wearing and physical distancing.
To assist schools in consideration of policy changes, the department is updating guidance to schools regarding the best practices that will continue to ensure the safety of both students and educators while supporting a strong in-person learning environment. This guidance document addresses updates to the public health directives:
School and Teacher Surveys Regarding COVID-19
In past months, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) has sought information from schools regarding their Ready for Learning plans. Please see the results of the Arkansas Ready for Learning Surveys: Phase 1 and Phase 2.
In November 2020, the ADE also conducted a survey of teachers across the state and received more than 10,500 responses. Please see the Teacher Survey Results.
Additional COVID-19 Data
School districts will use multiple sources of data to make decisions about onsite operations for the upcoming school year. Below are links to two new data elements, which should be used with other available community-level health data.
- Arkansas Center for Health Improvement school district boundary data
- Arkansas Department of Health school district-related data (Scroll down to Educational Institutions)
Information and resources are also available on the COVID-19 Information page.
Arkansas Ready to Learn Healthy School Guide
This guide was written and assembled by a team of medical, behavioral health, and education experts from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Arkansas Children’s, the Arkansas Department of Health, the Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education, and partners. The goal of the guide is to bring together good health information. This information includes the latest scientific advice, guidelines, and best practices. Every school is different. This guide can help school officials, educators, and families plan for in-person learning. >
Helping Students Cope Guide: Social-Emotional Supports for the Classroom
Students may have a harder time coming back to school this year than usual. While they may look forward to seeing friends and returning to a regular routine, they may also be coping with significant stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers will need strategies to support their students’ social-emotional needs as they transition back to the classroom. The following guide was written and assembled by a team of medical, behavioral health, and education experts from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Arkansas Children’s, the Arkansas Department of Health, the Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education, and partners.
Response Levels for On-site Learning
We have released the latest resource in the Arkansas Ready for Learning initiative to support school districts' preparation for the 2020-21 school year. The Response Levels for On-site Learning document will guide districts in determining and mitigating health risks associated with COVID-19 occurrences connected to on-site instruction and school activities.
In collaboration with the Arkansas Department of Health, we have established a clear communication process and a three-tiered system of response conditions based on data-informed factors. Each response level contains a matrix of operational decision points, with the associated precautions and actions increasing at each level. The three broad categories of decision points are:
- Initial Actions After Notification
- Considerations for Closure
- Recommendations for Continued On-site School Operations
The document is for assisting districts with responding to situations that may be encountered when on-site learning resumes. It is not intended to identify a district's status prior to the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.
Updated August 20, 2020 with Supplemental Guidance: Modification of On-site Operations
Wondering about back to school: How individual districts and schools are addressing the reopening of schools
Ready for School Resource Call Center available
The Arkansas Department of Education has established a Ready for School Resource Call Center. The purpose of the call center is to provide Arkansans with information and resources regarding the reopening of schools. With the support of partners from UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and the Arkansas Bilingual Resource Network, the call center will be staffed by education and health professionals, as well as community partners. The operating hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 1-833-353-6050 (English) or 1-501-218-4015 (Spanish).
What is the Arkansas Ready for Learning model?
We believe learning can happen anytime, anywhere. The COVID-19 pandemic put this belief to the test, but we were, and continue to be, unwavering in our commitment that learning must continue. In the face of COVID-19, Arkansas schools faced a real-world opportunity to assess their school and district plans. The result? Our foundation is strong!
In order to be even more prepared for learning this fall, districts must implement strategies that focus on three key indicators for student success: blended learning, guaranteed and viable curriculum, and a student-focused approach. To assist schools with these efforts, we are providing resources and tools, as well as an opportunity to apply for waivers, that will help them achieve success.
What is expected of districts?
During the AAEA summer conference on August 5, Secretary Johnny Key provided clarification regarding the expectations for onsite learning this fall in response to questions that have been generated as districts finalize their plans. To learn more, please go to Clarification Regarding On-site Learning.
The 2019-2020 school year ended in an unexpected way. While districts' responses to the crisis focused on continued engagement, preparing for the future requires more strategic planning to build on lessons learned. With state support, districts will be able to create systems that adhere to components of Arkansas's model and:
- 1. Implement a system of Blended Learning that allows each student to continue learning grade level or content standards through an educational plan that leverages both technology-based and face-to-face instructional approaches.
- 2. Ensure flexibility to implement onsite or remote teaching and learning and to pivot as necessary.
- 3. Provide support for districts, teachers, parents and students to innovate and adapt to new learning opportunities.
Districts that opt-in to the Ready for Learning model will need flexibility to implement onsite or remote teaching and learning and will receive state support for digital content, access to a Learning Management System (LMS), and an expedited process to receive waivers. Districts will need to support schools, and their teachers, parents and students, to innovate and adapt to new learning opportunities. In order to provide a strong academic setting that ensures student learning no matter the method of delivery, districts must provide a guaranteed and viable curriculum that consists of blended learning and diagnostic assessments.
- Blended Learning allows students to continue learning grade level or content standards through the use of technology-based and face-to-face instructional approaches.
- Diagnostic assessment for students in grades K-8 will be provided to identify student knowledge and learning gaps. This allows teachers to tailor instructional supports for each student.
- To learn more, go to Commissioner's Memo LS-20-113: Ready for Learning Assessment Options
How can districts be ready?
In order to provide a quality education, six educational systems must operate in harmony. The Planning for Re-engagment document highlights each system and identifies the priorities for each. Districts are encouraged to review the document and existing practices and make modifications that strengthen each system.
A new section, Supplemental Guidance: School Facilities, has been incorporated into this revised document.
What resources are available for re-entry?
In an effort to help educators address lost learning that may have occurred because of school closures due to COVID-19, a team of approximately 130 educators developed a playbook that will serve as a learning guide this fall. The Playbook identifies learning standards that need review and provides lesson plans for each grade level that educators can use to address learning gaps. The playbook was developed by teachers for teachers and serves as a valuable resource for schools.
Digital Delivery of Content
To be prepared for the upcoming school year, it is important that districts have necessary resources to continue the teaching and learning. Grade-level standards or higher must continue to be taught next year, regardless of the COVID-19 circumstances. If instruction does/must take place off-site, districts must have in place the support for continuation of teaching new content. Curriculum, instruction, and assessment must be deliverable through multiple modes to ensure equitable access to continued teaching and learning among all students.
Funding through the state portion of the CARES Act will provide a full K-12 digital curriculum aligned to Arkansas Academic Standards to all students statewide in all public and non-public schools through a digital platform provided by the approved digital provider. Districts may choose to utilize the content on the digital provider's platform or the content from any licensed platform already used by the district. The state provided solution will allow:
- District and educator control of curriculum to support customization and differentiation
- District-level control of the curriculum so schools continue to be the grade-granting entity for their students
- Flexibility for the teachers to incorporate the content during the school day or for support in their classroom instruction by providing online assignments for enrichment or remediation
- Flexible options for educators to package printable materials for students without access to the internet and/or downloadable content that can be delivered via device or flash drive, to ensure equity among all learners
- Customer support that will empower districts and their educators with practical, feasible options for providing feedback, technical assistance, and professional development to educators
The Arkansas Public School Resource Center’s AR Ready for Digital Learning resource is available to all public schools in Arkansas at NO COST to the district. Through a partnership with Lincoln Learning, AR Ready for Digital Learning provides teachers access to full kindergarten through 12th grade digital content aligned to Arkansas standards that they can use along with any other PDF materials, links or other items they wish to completely customize their course to serve their students’ needs. In addition, Lincoln Learning content is available either through the Buzz Learning Management System (LMS) platform, another LTI-compatible, licensed LMS of the district’s choosing, or Google Classroom. Districts can use as much or as little of the resources available to completely customize the system to best fit their district’s unique needs.
To learn more visit, https://www.apsrc.net/online-learning/.
Additional resources are in development for CTE Blended Learning Solutions, including Digital Content and LMS Resources.
Other state partner resources include:
Team Digital is a free resource provided through the education cooperatives to provide guidance, support, and training for digital and blended learning. Assistance and training covers a wide variety of digital learning resources. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 501-504-6656.
Arkansas Schools: As you continue developing your blended learning plans, we are excited to share that we have new modules ready to provide you guidance! In addition to Laying the Foundation for Blended Learning and Technology Considerations, we have added Curriculum Considerations and School Models. If you have not already signed up, use the District Team Request spreadsheet to request access to these resources.
Virtual Arkansas offers supplemental online programs to Arkansas school districts. School districts can choose from a variety of courses and options to meet the needs of students. During the event of school closures and disruptions, Virtual Arkansas can provide content and online educational solutions and training for schools.
If you are ready to begin the process of utilizing the Canvas LMS and/or the Virtual Arkansas content, please complete the MOU request form below.
- 1. MOU Request Form
- 2. Virtual Arkansas Information Session Recording
- 3. Virtual Arkansas Information Session Deck Slides
- 4. Virtual Arkansas Consortium Course Catalog
- 5. Virtual Arkansas Consortium Cost Evaluation Tool
Office for Innovation in Education (OIE). As a DESE partner, the OIE is a trusted colleague for change work in schools across the state -- particularly for new approaches to learning such as blended and remote practices. OIE is a free resource to all districts/schools and we are here to serve you during this pandemic, particularly for your Ready for Learning plans and implementation through one-on-one coaching, rapid planning sessions, responsive cross-district learning communities, and access and connection to high quality resources, models, and extended networks.
- Learn aboutRe-entry Planning Support Services.
COVID-19 District and School Information
For updates about re-entry to onsite summer program activities, school communication flow chart for COVID-19, onsite PD guidance and more, please visit COVID-19 District and School Information.
What are the next steps?
To continue the flexibility districts need in order to respond to the COVID-19 emergency, plan for re-entry to onsite instruction, and implement blended learning systems, the following process will be used:
- COMPLETED District submits Assurance and Application to DESE, emailed to email@example.com on or before June 26, 2020.
- COMPLETED State Board of Education reviews all submitted applications for approval of waivers. State Board Agenda including Ready for Learning waivers and list of districts approved for these waivers: https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicAgenda.aspx?ak=1001636&mk=50380799
- On or before September 1, 2020, the District posts the District Support Plan to the district's website and notifies DESE by email at ade.RfL@arkansas.gov.
- DESE team reviews the District Support Plan for implementation of assurances.
- Districts not meeting requirements are referred to the State Board of Education for review.
Districts applying for additional waivers will go through the regular Act 1240 waiver process and should complete a District Waiver Request Form and email the completed form and the charter waiver list(s) to Tracy.Webb@arkansas.gov.
For more information, visit the District Waiver Requests webpage
- Access the model school board resolution on the Arkansas School Boards Association website at https://arsba.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/COVID-Emergency-Resolution.pdf.
How will districts demonstrate Ready for Learning plans?
Districts will post their District Support Plans on the district website (State Required Information) on or before September 1, 2020, and include information regarding how they will accomplish the following:
- Ensure the continuity of teaching and learning by providing a guaranteed and viable curriculum that includes blended learning (K-12) and diagnostic assessments (K-8);
- Identify how they will address unfinished learning from the prior year by using the Arkansas Playbook: Addressing Unfinished Learning or district developed resources;
- Utilize a Learning Management System;
- Schedule teacher training for how to use the LMS;
- Schedule teacher training for blended learning (delivery of instruction);
- Use effective technology for parents and students; and
- Provide a written communication plan for interacting with parents, students, and the community regarding day-to-day expectations.
How do districts apply for the waivers?
- Read the detailed waivers document.
- Districts may complete the assurances document and email it to ade.RfL@arkansas.gov by June 26, 2020. The Assurance and Application document is available in Word or PDF.
Time & Date
Ready for Learning Webinar
Ready for Learning:
Read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Please email any additional questions to ade.RfL@arkansas.gov.