Resources for School Districts
2021-2022 COVID-19 Guidance for Schools
Despite hardships for the 2020-21 school year, Arkansas’s students, educators, and communities finished the year strong and were successful at maximizing on-site instruction in Arkansas even when many other states remained virtual. The success came as a result of strategic planning and ongoing communication between school districts, the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). Last summer, school districts, in collaboration with their communities, developed and implemented “Ready for Learning” plans that put into action multiple mitigation strategies to minimize risks to students and staff. These plans served as each LEAs Safe Return to In-Person learning, and the results from last year leave us more confident in the proven mitigation strategies and more aware of what to expect.
To assist schools with developing procedures for all school operations, the DESE collaborated with the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) to update guidance 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 was reviewed by the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Health. To learn more, click on the following document:
Response Levels for On-Site Learning
To assist schools, DESE has updated information regarding response levels for on-site learning. For details, click on the following document:
Statewide Communities Resources Portal
The Statewide Community Resources Portal is a website that connects schools and communities with much needed information about available support services around the state. As a result of COVID-19, many students and families were in need of essential support services, or “wrap-around” services, such as financial, healthcare, and housing assistance. To learn more, please visit https://adedata.arkansas.gov/scr.
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.
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 resources are available for re-entry?
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/.
Other resources include:
The DESE Digital Learning Unit (formerly 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 870-730-2924.
We support schools as they adopt online providers and design their own online content, to ensure the best digital learning experience for students. We educate stakeholders on best digital learning practices, and support districts in their creation and implementation of digital learning plans.
We also partner with digital learning entities, such as Virtual Arkansas and the Office of Innovation for Education, to support the implementation of quality digital content and professional learning.
Additionally, the Digital Learning Unit can also support how to evaluate effective online instruction and programs, and create effective Collaborative Team meetings with both in-person and virtual teachers. We also can support addressing the different levels of HRS and designing an effective guaranteed viable online curriculum
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.
- MOU Request Form
- Virtual Arkansas Information Session Recording
- Virtual Arkansas Information Session Deck Slides
- Virtual Arkansas Consortium Course Catalog
- 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.