Updates to COVID-19 GUIDANCE (UPDATED 7-30-2020)
The governor recently issued a statewide mandate requiring the wearing of face coverings. Districts need to adopt policies to implement the Arkansas Department of Health’s Face Coverings Directive issued on July 18. (See links below.) With some exceptions, the directive requires every person 10 years of age and older to wear a face covering completely over the mouth and nose in both indoor environments and outdoor settings when distancing of six feet or more cannot be assured. The directive does not supersede any decision made by the school district to require masks for children younger than 10 years of age while attending school. The Arkansas Department of Health recommends a face covering for all students and staff including children under the age of 10 when appropriate. (Under no circumstances should a mask be placed on a child under the age of 2). If your district will require documentation from a health care provider to support a claim of exemption due to a medical condition or disability that prevents the person from wearing a face covering, that requirement should be set forth in policy.
Governor’s Executive Order: https://bit.ly/3ghIdAj
Arkansas Department of Health Directive: https://bit.ly/3jPqAtX.
Secondary Centers and Concurrent Credit
Secondary Career Centers will be operating this fall, and it is expected that students should continue to have opportunities to enhance their career plans. Superintendents and career center directors should be in regular communication about scheduling, logistics, and any changes to plans that might affect students. The centers are planning to implement physical distancing requirements and to provide PPE for students and faculty. Superintendents and center directors should work together as situations develop and as details are finalized.
With changes to the school calendar, there may be questions that arise related to concurrent credit courses and the impact on both students and teachers. School districts should be in communication with their partner college(s) to discuss any changes to the planned start date for courses. High school students who are taking courses on college campuses taught by college instructors should adhere to the college schedule, and districts should adhere to previously-planned arrangements for scheduling, transportation, and support. Courses taught on the high school campus by the high school teacher should follow the district’s schedule. Variations from these scenarios should be worked out between the school district and higher education institution, keeping in mind that each entity may have developed unique schedules. Both institutions should work to provide flexibility for staff and students as the school year starts. The method of instructional delivery (onsite, virtual, hybrid) should be communicated through the MOU and updated, if needed. All students should be notified of any changes to courses, schedules, or methods of delivery prior to the start of school.
To align with DHS policies/procedures regarding Pre-K programs, initial virtual learning for ABC programs will not be an option for parents in lieu of onsite learning.If an entire school district or educational cooperative closes as a COVID-19 response (guided by ADH/ADE), ABC programs associated with those LEAs may be able to remain open but should also be prepared in case remote learning becomes necessary. ABC programs not affiliated with school districts or educational cooperatives will also remain open. ABC Early Childhood Centers should consult with DESE and ADH when determining the appropriate level of response related to COVID-19.
Updates to COVID-19 GUIDANCE (UPDATED 7-29-2020)
Clarification regarding onsite Parent-Teacher Conferences and return-to-school events: During the COVID-19 pandemic, communication between school and home is just as important as ever, if not more so. It remains challenging, however, to operate in the same manner as in the past because bringing large groups of parents and visitors into school buildings provides for an increased risk of viral transmission. Consequently, districts may need to consider making temporary modifications to the Parent-Teacher Conference practice for the 2020-2021 school year as part of the district’s Ready for Learning plan.
Prior to the start of school, districts should follow ADH guidelines for any event or meeting scheduled. The current guidance for Re-Entry to Onsite Summer Programs and Activities can be used to guide decisions up until the time that school begins: https://bit.ly/307pHFc. Prior to the start of school, please consider the following questions when making decisions about onsite activities. Our objective is to have as many students as possible onsite for face-to-face learning for the maximum amount of time.
- Does the event/meeting/gathering help advance your goal of getting students back onsite for face-to-face instruction?
- Does your plan meet ADH guidelines for small/large indoor or outdoor venues?
- Does the event/meeting/gathering increase the risk of exposure to staff or students?
Please make these questions and the conversation about Parent-Teacher Conferences part of your Ready for Learning committee and PPC discussions and planning.
Updates to COVID-19 GUIDANCE (UPDATED 6-23-2020)
On Friday, June 19, the Arkansas Department of Health issued new guidance regarding face coverings. The Centers for Disease Control and the Arkansas Department of Health are advising the use of cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus.The guidance can be accessed at https://bit.ly/31avMlk.
The Ready for Learning Re-engagement to Onsite Instruction document also has been updated to clarify questions regarding whether wearing face coverings would be required. Because new information is emerging every day on how the coronavirus spreads and the best ways to protect against COVID-19, it is important to communicate the most updated information regularly to teachers, parents, and students in your community. The Planning for Re-engagement document can be accessed at https://bit.ly/3g2iknN.
State Reported Absences
DESE has amended the definition of an “absence” to reflect remote, off-site, and virtual learning. This definition replaces the previous definition set forth in COM-18-093 for state reporting purposes. Please review the updated memo, COM-20-128, for details and the updated definition. https://bit.ly/3ev9sq4
Ready for Learning
Districts should submit their assurances for Arkansas Ready for Learning by Friday, June 26. The State Board of Education will meet on Monday, June 29 to review the applications. This expedited process signifies a mutual commitment between local districts and the state to provide flexibility as they plan for the upcoming year. The document also serves as an assurance that students will be provided with the opportunity for ongoing learning despite interruptions. We realize that adjustments may have to be made in the coming months as plans are finalized and additional support needs are identified.
Updates to COVID-19 GUIDANCE (UPDATED 6-11-2020)
As a result of Governor Asa Hutchinson's announcement regarding Arkansas' move into Phase II of the state's reopening, the following updated guidance for graduation ceremonies after July 1 has been issued.
Districts considering traditional graduation ceremonies after July 1 must complete a plan using the following template: https://bit.ly/2XPpLIq. The document must be downloaded (or copied), completed, and submitted to ADE.HighSchoolGraduation@arkansas.gov.
Please read the guidance carefully and follow instructions for submitting your graduation ceremony plan for review and approval by DESE and ADH officials. Districts must provide details on how each component of the guidelines will be met. Plans must be submitted at least 1 week prior to the planned ceremony date to allow time for the review and notification that plans meet established guidelines. A list of plans that meet all guidelines will be posted on the Arkansas Ready for Learning webpage: https://bit.ly/2UASOgT.
- For venues such as football fields and basketball arenas, graduates do not count toward the 66% capacity as long as 6 feet of physical distancing is maintained and the graduates are at least 12 feet from the audience.
- For venues such as fine arts centers for which graduates are seated on a stage, graduates would not factor into the 66% capacity, but 6 feet of physical distancing must be maintained and graduates must be at least 12 feet from the audience.
- If graduates will be utilizing venue seating (bleachers, seats, etc.), they must be included in the 66% capacity.
Updates to COVID-19 GUIDANCE (UPDATED 5-21-2020)
On May 21, 2020, Governor Hutchinson announced a Directive for Community and School Sponsored Team Sports and Extracurricular Activities. The directive provides requirements for lifting limitations to community-based and school-sponsored team sports through a phased approach for all ages of athletes.
In working with the Economic Recovery Task Force and the Arkansas Department of Health, the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has identified a limited list of academic-related summer programs/activities that can resume on school campuses beginning June 1. Current health directives are being applied to school district operations in the phase-in approach for allowing onsite summer activities to begin, and the directives in the linked document must be followed if a district chooses to allow these activities onsite.
The guidelines can be accessed here:
As health guidance changes, the application to school operations will be updated. The approved programs/activities are as follows:
- Summer School: Individual and Small Group Tutoring
- Advanced Placement Make-up Testing
- June ACT Testing Center
- Career and Technical Education Industry Certification Testing
- Special Education Evaluations
- Individual Evaluations or Screener for Educational Purposes
- Counseling Sessions
- Occupational and Physical Therapy
- Speech Therapy
- Credit Recovery
- Summer Feeding
- Summer Workers
- Senior Pictures
- Onsite Professional Development
- Early Childhood Programs or DHS licensed Child Care Programs
- Summer Day Camps
While the activities are permitted, we would encourage as little on-campus activity as possible this summer to allow the best chance possible of starting the school year with the lowest levels/risk of community COVID-19. Remaining cautious now increases the likelihood that we will be in Phase 2 or Phase 3 of recovery by August.
Transportation of students is not allowed under the current health guidance; therefore, schools must continue to seek alternatives to support students. These alternatives can include virtual summer school, continuation of teletherapy, delivery of instructional materials and meal service, etc. When schools resume onsite instruction in the fall, busing will be allowed with as many precautions as reasonable. More guidance will be developed and shared regarding all school operations as health directives change based on data.
These guidelines do not apply to traditional graduation ceremonies. Traditional high school graduation ceremonies are restricted until July 1 at the earliest.
Education Service Cooperatives will be working with school districts to assist with ordering Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) through TIPS/TAPS to provide PPE procurement and pricing options to districts around the state. Due to summer activities, it is important to get these items as quickly as possible. A list of PPE and recommendations for determining the amount/type of PPE needed can be accessed here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1YOIingVaiVB6XPxRUfaz1Zy2qiqCD8TZ/edit.
The reopening of child care programs is crucial to helping parents and guardians return to work. With summer quickly approaching and the state working to reopen businesses, an increasing number of working parents may need to rely on these programs. The Department of Human Services and ADH have guidance for safely continuing to operate childcare programs and have issued new guidance for day camps. Licensed Child Care Programs operating on school campuses may begin immediately. Summer Day Camps, which are organized daytime group activities for children, are allowed to operate on school campuses per ADH directives and may begin June 1. Districts must consider how the operation of child care programs and day camps impact any/all of the other approved summer programs and ensure that facility usage can accommodate multiple activities at the same time in compliance with directives.
Guidance for Child Care Facilities can be accessed here: https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/images/uploads/pdf/Child_Care_ADH_DHS_Guidance_Document_5-11-20.pdf
Guidance for Day Camps can be accessed here: https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/images/uploads/pdf/directive_covid_summer_day_camps.pdf
For school-related health questions, please contact the ADE/ADH hotline: 833-504-0155, Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The ADH Hotline is 1-800-803-7874 for after-hours calls.
A communication flow chart has been created to assist districts in responding to COVID-19 related questions: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1dRAIj_FIX3VxB92c8wmGp1yHIY2vm1AI/view?usp=sharing.
Updates to COVID-19 GUIDANCE (UPDATED 4-29-2020)
Student attendance or participation information helps districts identify possible areas of need to ensure all students stay actively engaged in remote learning. Decisions regarding the requirements for student attendance are determined solely at the local school district level. Funding will continue to be calculated on Average Daily Membership through enrollment in eSchool.
A reliable estimate for when the COVID-19 pandemic will end is not available. A return to normal activities may not occur until late summer or beyond, and it is likely that social distancing restrictions will continue for some time. Therefore, school districts that are considering summer school options for students should be planning for digital delivery only, at least until July 1, 2020.
Secretary Key has established an internal working group to develop processes for disbursement of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds from the CARES Act, of which Arkansas has a $30.6 million allocation. ADE staff is working with the Governor’s Office to determine the most significant emergency needs resulting from COVID-19. After review by the governor, ADE will share details regarding the priorities that the GEER funds will seek to address and the process for application.
DESE staff received updates from the U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and other senior officials from the U.S. Department of Education regarding the application for and disbursement of K-12 funding allocated under the CARES Act for the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Education Relief (ESSER) funds. DESE is finalizing an assurances/application document to formalize the process for disbursing funds to school districts. Funding will be sent as a reimbursement to districts. Districts will be notified of their amounts by a Commissioner’s Memo.
States and districts may use the funds to cover expenses incurred on or after March 13, 2020, when President Trump declared a national state of emergency.
Below is a chart to help distinguish the ESSER and GEER components of the CARES Act.
GEER:$30.6 million allocation
What is the focus of the funds?
1. Food security
2. Direct Student Support/Continuous Learning Opportunities
4. Systemic Procedures
Funds to address the most significantly impacted areas (TBD)
Who is eligible to apply?
LEA will be funded by Title I formula
Application: LEAs, IHEs, or other education-related entities
What is the funding level (availability)?
Allocations will be posted on DESE website.
Different amounts will be established based on priorities.
LEA funds must be obligated by September 30, 2022.
Each governor will have one year, from the date of the state’s award, to award funds. Application currently under review
12 uses of funds outlined in CARES Act section 18003
Priorities will be established based onLEAs, IHEs, and other education-related entities that are most significantly impacted by COVID-19 and/or essential for carrying out emergency educational services.
Expenditures must meet reasonable, necessary, and allocable conditions. Not allowed to use funds to (1) subsidize or offset executive salaries and benefits of individuals who are not employees of SEA or LEA; (2) expenditures related to state or local teachers of faculty unions or associations; (3) onsite core instruction (meeting Standards for Accreditation).
N/A- Funds will be distributed based on approved applications that meet established priorities.
Students with Disabilities
LEAs must attempt to provide students with disabilities a free appropriate public education consistent with their Individualized Education Program as much as possible while continuing to meet the procedural requirements under IDEA and Arkansas law. As LEAs continue to monitor and modify their plans for extended AMI through remote learning, they need to ensure students with disabilities have equal access to the curriculum as compared with their peers. IEPs that were in effect at the time of physical school closure remain in effect, and LEAs should, to the greatest extent possible, continue to provide the services called for in those IEPs in alternative ways. A new document, Guidance for Special Education for Extended AMI is available.
School-Based Mental Health
There are steps that schools can take to work collaboratively and effectively with mental health providers in order to limit the spread of disease. Many therapists are now offering telehealth services so that students do not have to leave their homes to receive care. In collaboration with the Arkansas Department of Health, schools have established “safe zones” where students may access the school’s wifi, thus online therapy, without entering the facility.
It is up to each district to determine if mental health services should be made available on campus. It is likely that this process will look different in each school’s setting; however, the following document outlines best practices as approved by the ADH: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1MdaX4n2tFVm-F2cDNlF6iA0kzW46KEIyq/view.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Hotline
The Arkansas Department of Human Services has a call center to answer questions and assist households with completing the application process for SNAP benefits. SNAP benefits can provide households with needed income to provide food for their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. The hotline number is 1-833-762-7275 and is available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Updates to COVID-19 GUIDANCE (UPDATED 4-27-2020)
On April 25, Governor Hutchinson and Secretary Key announced requirements for districts to follow in planning for high school graduation ceremonies. Traditional high school graduation ceremonies are restricted until July 1 at the earliest. DESE will consult with ADH to review data and re-evaluate the situation as we approach July 1 and continue to make decisions based on current public health data.
DESE encourages schools to delay their graduation ceremonies; however, if a high school desires to hold a non-traditional graduation ceremony prior to July 1, this can be considered as long as the plans adhere to the current health emergency directives regarding social distancing and limits to the number of people in a congregate setting. Any non-traditional graduation plan must be submitted to the Department of Education. The plan will be reviewed, in consultation with the Department of Health, for adherence to established public health guidelines.
Plans should be submitted by the school district superintendent and should include the superintendent’s email, phone number, and the proposed date(s) of activities associated with a non-traditional ceremony. The review of the plan will be looking for adherence to health guidelines.
In addition to the overall description of the non-traditional ceremony, plans should include, at a minimum, the following details:
- Information regarding Personal Protective Equipment: What PPE will be used and by whom?
- Precautions to ensure there is not a social gathering (more than 10 people) before, during, and after the ceremony.
- Social distancing plans.
- Safety precautions when handling diplomas, awards, etc.
- Parking and exiting vehicles (no more than 10 people out of vehicles at any time). School/district staff, board members, graduate and family members, photographer and/or videographer are included in the count of no more than 10 people outside of vehicles.
Plans will be reviewed as quickly as possible, and records will be kept to document plans that meet health guidelines.
DESE also has received questions about the possibility of athletic practices resuming if privately-owned gyms/fitness centers are allowed to reopen. Please be reminded that the Arkansas Activities Association extended the athletic dead period through May 30 to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. During this dead period, teams aren’t allowed to practice, lift weights together, play games, or travel to competition. School athletic facilities will remain closed until May 30, at which time the AAA, working with the ADH, will re-evaluate the situation.
Updates to COVID-19 GUIDANCE (UPDATED 4-20-2020)
Waiver of Provisions
Last month, several education-related statutes and rules were suspended to allow schools and education-related entities to better deal with the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. In an update to the executive order, Gov. Hutchinson granted authority to suspend statutes and rules identified by the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education for the duration of the emergency. Discussion of provisions to suspend is ongoing, and additional provisions may be added as needs are identified. The most recently updated list can be reviewed at https://bit.ly/2VoovuI. The newly-added provisions begin on page 20 of the document.
The Arkansas Department of Health and DESE have received many questions about high school graduation ceremonies. Based on the current directives, a total of 10 people or less at the site would be required. The schedule for students (and their guests) to appear on campus should be spaced out to avoid having more than one student and his/her group on campus at a time. The number of family members present should be limited to maintain a total of 10 at all times. That would consist of a maximum of 6 family members/guests, assuming the number of staff is limited, such as the superintendent, principal, and camera operator. Having no more than one family on campus at a time would also be critical. Out-of-state family members and guests from areas with high rates of COVID-19 should be restricted, as these individuals are to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the state. (Check the ADH website for the most up-to-date list of affected areas.)
Wearing gloves and masks for all present is recommended, and all attendees must maintain proper social distancing. Students cannot congregate in rooms or facilities while waiting for the ceremony. Everyone should be screened upon arriving for the graduation. The following individuals should be excluded from participating: those with a fever during the previous 48 hours, persistent or unusual cough, shortness of breath, direct contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, or has out-of-state travel history from areas with high rates of COVID-19.
Graduation ceremonies are typically large social gatherings; therefore, it is not known when current restrictions will be lifted for events of this type.
Restart and Recovery
DESE is creating a statewide guiding coalition of educators to develop a playbook to guide the return to onsite learning efforts. This work is led by Missy Walley, Director of Special Projects at the DESE, and involves educators across the state who have proven expertise in the Professional Learning Communities at Work process. This playbook will be a valuable resource in helping administrators and teacher teams develop a pathway for closing knowledge gaps in order to jumpstart the school year. Collaborative teacher teams are currently developing resources, including assessing current knowledge and model units.
The Southern Region Education Board (SREB) also will assist member states as they consider how to re-open schools when states deem it safe. A multi-state taskforce is being named to address key issues in the 16 SREB states. Issues include the following:
- Supporting student learning.
- Equity and opportunity for students during and after the crisis.
- Using federal stimulus funds effectively and managing state budget priorities.
- Access to broadband and the use of technology.
SREB work will be incorporated into the playbook. DESE expects to start providing components of the playbook in mid-May.
Updates to COVID-19 GUIDANCE (UPDATED 4-9-2020)
Continuation of AMI
Governor Asa Hutchinson announced on April 6 that Arkansas schools would remain closed to in-person instruction for the remainder of the school year. To assist schools with the continued delivery of Alternative Methods of Instruction, Arkansas PBS and the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education will continue to develop content and lesson delivery through May 1, allowing districts time to prepare for the remainder of the calendar year.
DESE will work with education service cooperatives to develop support for districts that need assistance with the development and distribution of educational content. DESE also will provide hotline support for educators and parents and provide assistance with accessing broadband or technology resources.
The emphasis for schoolwork right now is on learning, not compliance. All students should have extended opportunities to redo, make up, or try again to complete, show progress, or attempt to complete work assigned prior to and during the remote learning period. When determining a standard for passing grades, districts should make sure to take into account that students are receiving different and often reduced levels of support than they are accustomed to and that they may need time and help to adjust to remote systems of learning. The expectation is that during the extended closure there should not be a negative impact on students.
Time On Task
The six-hour instructional day has been waived for schools and students. School districts should provide flexibility regarding “time on task,” and the focus should be on the essential standards within core content. The DESE will issue additional guidance soon with recommendations for maximum time on task for different grade levels.
Federal Waivers/ Federal Funds
On April 6, 2020, DESE submitted a letter requesting a waiver for federal fund carry-over restrictions, period of availability of funds, Title IV requirements, and the definition of professional development. The waiver was tentatively approved on April 7, 2020, with a formal letter of approval expected soon. This flexibility will extend the timeline for the allocation and expenditure of funds and allow for one-time professional development (previously disallowed) using federal funds if the PD is necessary to address the COVID-19 crisis.
DESE will continue to post waiver information on the ESSA Webpage: https://bit.ly/39VznV0.
Stabilization Funds (CARES Act)
DESE is monitoring communication with the U.S. Department of Education and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) for information regarding the CARES Act stabilization funds. DESE will make guidance to LEAs regarding these funds as soon as information is released to states. Currently, districts may code expenditures related to COVID-19 to subject code CV in order to track expenditures that may meet the requirements of the CARES Act funds. DESE encourages districts to document these expenditures.
School leaders should work closely with their local boards to determine certified and classified staffing needs during the COVID-19 crisis and determine if local policies need to be modified. It is expected that all staff, including hourly staff, will earn pay and benefits as planned in the school budget. The intent is to prevent any unnecessary disruption. Hourly staff should follow the directives from their superintendent and partner with their schools to support students in order to be paid consistent with employee contracts. Districts and staff should be flexible in determining the manner in which hourly staff contribute to the continuity of operations. This may mean that staff perform different duties than they are normally assigned.
Districts should work with employees who need flexible work schedules and may consider adopting remote-work policies. In developing remote-work policies or protocols, district employees may be needed to complete work functions on a school campus. While districts must comply with directives by the governor and the Arkansas Department of Health regarding work requirements, district employees or contractors deemed necessary to conduct minimum basic school operations consistent with a district’s AMI plan are permitted to be physically present in district buildings, as determined by district administrators. This would include those employers or contractors deemed necessary to facilitate alternative modes of instruction, such as distributing materials and equipment, or performing other necessary in-person functions.
Districts must adopt social distancing practices and other mitigation measures to protect district employees and contractors. The following recommendations are advised based on ADH guidance:
1. Restricting the number of employees and contractors present in a district building to no more than is strictly necessary to perform the activities authorized by this section.
2. Promoting remote work to the fullest extent possible.
3. Practicing social distancing inside and outside buildings.
4. Recommending wearing cloth masks when inside buildings.
5. Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and following guidelines for slowing the spread of the virus.
6. Adopting policies for conducting health screenings before employees or contractors enter buildings.
Executive Order/Suspended Provisions
In accordance with Executive Order 20-06 issued by Gov. Asa Hutchinson on March 17, 2020, several statutes and rules have been suspended. Those are provided on our website.
Due to the change in time commitments for direct teacher and student interaction, many educators are engaged in professional learning activities. We applaud this effort of meeting point-in-time learning needs for educators as long as it can be completed in a safe manner. With so much professional development happening now, we have received many questions about professional development requirements for the 2020-2021 school year and are looking at options to recognize current PD attainment that could allow for more time for student contact upon the return to onsite learning.
We have received several questions regarding the requirement that school-level improvement plans be submitted to the district by May 1. Due to the current circumstances, we realize that requiring schools to hold to this date in the manner that the planning process was originally designed would be impractical. Instead, we would encourage schools to consider their implementation of AMI plans and their processes around monitoring, revising, and reflecting on the progress of teaching and learning remotely. From the work that is currently underway to continue teaching and learning remotely, we expect districts to use this new data in their needs assessment process to meet the expectation of the continuous cycle of improvement, which is the main component of a Plan, Do, Check model. During your planning, please consider opportunities to utilize federal stabilization funds to mitigate any long-term impact or learning loss.
Statewide Information Cycle (Cycle Reporting: Cycles 7,8,9)
The remaining cycles for the 2019-2020 school year are listed below:
- Cycle 7: June 1, 2020 - June 30, 2020*
- Cycle 8: July 15, 2020 - July 31, 2020
- Cycle 9: August 15, 2020 - August 31, 2020
*The deadline for Cycle 7 has been extended to June 30, 2020, for the 2019-2020 school year for all school districts.
Background Checks/ Fingerprinting
Currently, non-medical-related fingerprinting services have been suspended until further notice due to COVID-19. While the fingerprinting process has been suspended at this time, individuals may complete other steps in the background check process, which include the following:
- Completing an Online Background Check Consent Form
- Making the Background Check Payment
- Finalizing the Arkansas Child Maltreatment Central Registry Check
Please refer to Commissioner Memo LIC-20-036 for more details.
Employee Hiring & Licensure Exceptions
Maximum flexibility will be given to ensure candidates are eligible for employment.
Traditional Educator Preparation Graduates:
Institutions of higher education will recommend candidates from their educator preparation programs for licensure. In the event that a graduate is missing one or more required components for a standard license, the DESE will exercise options to issue a Provisional License or an Emergency Teaching Permit as applicable.
Additional Licensure Plans (ALP), Administrator Licensure Completion Plans (ALCP), Emergency Teaching Permits (ETP), and Long-Term-Substitute (LTS) will be approved or denied on a case-by-case basis using maximum flexibility due to COVID-19. Current documentation procedures still apply.
Email David.Baca@arkansas.gov for any questions regarding ALPs and ALCPs.
End-of-Year Employee Evaluations
Because ADE Rules Governing Educator Support and Development, Sections 6.01 through 6.05.1, and 7.01 through 7.03 have been suspended, local districts must determine the process for completing end-of-year ratings for educators who were scheduled for a summative year evaluation. Certified staff currently in a summative year may be moved to the 2020-2021 reporting cycle. Schools choosing to complete summative ratings of educators in a summative year will complete the process as outlined in Commissioners’ Memo LIC-20-020. Flexibility may be given to certified staff who request to have their summative rating waived for 2019-2020 school year. Additional details can be found in Commissioner Memo LIC-20-034.
Child Nutrition/ Meal Delivery
We applaud the efforts that districts are making to continue to provide meals to students during the COVID-19 crisis. More than 230 districts are providing some type of meal service during the school closure. Arkansas has received several waivers from the USDA to make meal delivery easier during the COVID-19 emergency. Information about each waiver can be found at https://bit.ly/2xY9PZZ.
During the continued closure, local districts may continue to provide meals for students for the remainder of the school year, as long as Arkansas Department of Health guidelines are followed and social distancing is practiced during meal preparation and delivery. Contact the Child Nutrition Unit at 501-324-9502 for assistance.
Arkansas Department of Health Guidance:
- Guidance for Emergency Meal Service and Delivery
- Guidance for Retail Food Establishments - includes what to do if an employee tests positive to COVID-19
Recent CNU Commissioner’s Memos include:
- CNU-20-034 : Identified Student Percentage Reporting
- CNU-20-033 : Paid Lunch Equity Guidance for School Year 2020-21
Arkansas has worked with the USDA to temporarily extend the eligibility of P-EBT benefits to SNAP and non-SNAP households with children who have temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to pandemic-related school closures. The household allotment amount will be no less than the value of school meals at the free rate over the course of five school days for each eligible child in the household. This relief is an added layer of support for our students with greatest needs.
A series of webinars, CTE in a Time of Uncertainty, will be highlighting CTE best practices during COVID19. The webinars are hosted by ACTE and are available beginning April 8, 2020 at no cost at the following link: https://www.acteonline.org/acte-division-webinars-cte-in-a-time-of-uncertainty/
AMI resources for CTE recommended by DCTE can be found at this link: https://dcte.ade.arkansas.gov/Page/OccupationalProgramAreas along with high-quality industry recommended and supported CTE resources at: https://ctecoalition.com/.
At-Home testing is available for MOS and MTA certifications. Teachers and districts can reach out to email@example.com with scheduling or implementation questions. Testing will be available through June 29, 2020.
Local support suggestions for Agricultural Education Programs regarding livestock purchases is at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-VTpkZCWFvtcsb5h_5ZfU5Zap82LXDon/view?usp=sharing.
The Perkins V State Plan submission date has been extended to June 15, 2020, with approval anticipated by July 1, 2020, and the first installment of Carl Perkins FY 20 disbursed on July 1, 2020.
Local applications from CTE Coordinators can be submitted with up to a 3 month extension. Our state deadline is July 1, 2020.
FY20 Perkins V funds can be obligated prior to the extended local application deadline and prior to the July 1, 2020, implementation of Perkins V.
A Perkins FAQ document from the DCTE Perkins Program Coordinator is available at this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1EEvZhjo4KbnZ4-Xx823i5e6293O5RYdH/view?usp=sharing
ACT rescheduled its April 4 national test date to June 13, 2020. All students registered for the April 4 test date should have received an email from ACT informing them of the postponement and instructions for free rescheduling to June 13 or a future national test date. The deadline of July 1 for high school seniors to apply for the Arkansas Challenge (Lottery) Scholarship on the YOUniversal portal is July 1. This deadline does allow the June 13 student score to be considered for the minimum superscore of a 19.
The AP College Board will be supporting students to provide access to Advanced Placement content and AP exams. For each AP subject, there will be two different testing dates. The full exam schedule, specific free-response question types that will be on each AP exam, and additional testing information is available below.
For the latest updates and additional details, visit the following pages on the College Board website:
• For schools: https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/about-ap/news-changes/coronavirus-update
• For students: https://apstudents.collegeboard.org/coronavirus-updates
Updates to COVID-19 GUIDANCE (UPDATED 3-26-2020)
The recent announcement regarding the state’s general revenue reduction will necessitate a reduced distribution of General Revenue for the current fiscal year, resulting in a reduction of about $120 million to the Public School Fund for FY 20. The DESE has sufficient funding reserves, however, to continue state foundation funding and categorical funding and maintain the Legislative Adequacy recommendations. Additionally, at this time, DESE does not expect to reduce other programs funded from the Public School Fund for the rest of FY20.
Clarification about Seniors
The decision from DESE related to seniors meeting graduation requirements is regarding the statutory requirements for graduation. The intent is to relieve questions and concerns about whether seniors would be required to participate in extended make-up days or summer school should there be any further delays to the school year. It is not DESE’s position that seniors are automatically finished, since there are other considerations, such as concurrent credit courses, CTE industry certifications, ACT prep, and also determinations as to whether a senior is on track. Whether a senior is “on track to graduate and in good standing as of the 3rd nine weeks” is a local school district decision that will be made by school administration. This determination should be made based on a review of student data including, but not limited to, grades and credits earned. Districts may have additional requirements for specific designations upon graduation or opportunities for seniors to continue engagement for the remainder of the school year. Districts must also continue to provide the services and supports included in a student’s IEP or 504 plan necessary to provide FAPE as part of any continued academic engagement or other opportunities.
Concurrent Credit/ Advanced Placement
Students, including graduating seniors, must meet the objectives of concurrent courses to receive college credit. Students taking online concurrent courses will continue as usual to receive college credit. Districts should contact their college liaisons to determine the most feasible means to arrange completion of face-to-face concurrent courses. Examples may include migrating students into online sections or completing the courses via correspondence. ADHE encourages colleges to provide flexible and innovative approaches in assisting students and districts with the completion of concurrent courses while maintaining academic integrity and quality learning experiences.
Advanced Placement: The AP College Board will be supporting students to provide access to AP content and AP exams. Details will be coming soon on how the AP Program can support students by providing live and on-demand AP courses for free and developing a new at-home testing option. Some students may want to take the exam sooner rather than later while the content is still fresh, yet other students may want more time to practice. For each AP subject, there will be two different testing dates. The full exam schedule, specific free-response question types that will be on each AP exam, and additional testing information will be available by April 3. The exams can still be taken for a higher education qualifying score even if it is necessary for them to be taken from home.
Additional Provisions Suspended
The DESE has continued to identify regulatory statutes, orders, and rules that are hindering or preventing the rapid response necessary to combat the spread of and recovery from COVID-19 per the Governor’s Executive Order 20-06 dated March 17, 2020. The EO allowed for a 30-day suspension (from the date of the EO) of provisions of law and rules to enable maximum flexibility in making decisions regarding how to continue educational delivery, monitor progress of students, conduct meetings, etc. Provisions suspended by DESE, which were most recently updated on March 24, 2020, can be found athttp://dese.ade.arkansas.gov/divisions/communications/covid-19-information/temporarily-suspended-dese-rules-draft.
Grading and Assessment of Student Work
Recognizing that AMI days will not replicate the traditional schedules for every student, provisions have been waived to allow districts flexibility in assigning grades to students. Districts may continue to issue a numeric/letter grade, or they may consider other alternatives, such as a pass/fail model or a demonstration of content mastery approach. Other waivers in this area:
- Allow districts flexibility in assigning grades to students.
- Allow districts flexibility in calculating GPA.
- Remove the requirement that students take “the entire AP course” and AP exam, to receive weighted credit.
- Allow districts flexibility in reporting progress/completion to parents/guardians by not requiring a “grade” for each class. Districts are still required to issue a report card for each student at the end of each grading period, at least four times each school year.
The DESE APSCN team will work with schools to modify reporting options in eSchool and is ready to help districts think through unique situations. Options to consider include:
- Option A) Process grades as normal. All setups are currently in place for this procedure. Semester grades will be processed as normal. Grades will be submitted for the fourth 9 weeks as normal during a typical grading period. No eSchool changes necessary.
- Option B) Schools may opt to carry the third 9 weeks grade to fourth 9 weeks and average the two 9 weeks grades to provide the semester grade. This process will require setup changes. A district’s eSchool admin should seek assistance from APSCN Field Support Technicians.
- Option C) Pass/Fail option. The district may issue a Pass/Fail type grade. The parameters of the pass/fail grade option will be defined by the district. This option will require setup changes in eSchool. This option will vary depending on the school district and will require assistance from eSchool Field Support Technicians. This option will require district personnel to enter a semester grade for each student. It is highly encouraged that this option be well planned prior to implementation by the district’s eSchool admin. and administration.
Districts are strongly encouraged to examine their plan for the continuity of education (through AMI) for the next few weeks and make decisions, specifically those regarding grading, that are in the best interests of students. District eSchool admins should contact their education service coop APSCN Field Tech for assistance or guidance on making changes to grading processes in eSchool.
Here is a link to all APSCN support team members.
It is vital that districts communicate plans to staff, students, and parents.
Continuation of AMI / AMI Support
DESE, in collaboration with state partners providing support for schools using Alternate Methods of Instruction, has released a document titled Arkansas Continuing Education Options for PK-12. This document outlines the various options districts should consider at this time. These options are available to all schools and are also open to anyone who wants to access the content. Districts may utilize the Arkansas AMI guides in place of current AMI plans, or they may continue with local plans. Districts should be mindful of the challenges that families are facing right now and be sure that their AMI decisions have reasonable expectations.
Arkansas AMI Learning Guides, developed through a partnership between DESE and Arkansas PBS, provide support for students, parents, and teachers in grades PK-8. More information may be found by watching the recorded presentations on the Arkansas AMI webpage.
Special Education and AMI: The impact of AMI needs to be considered for each child based on his/her individual needs and how he/she will access the special education services and supports outlined in the Individualized Education Program (IEP). As the district plans for the continuation of AMI, educators need to ensure students with disabilities have equal access to curriculum as compared with their peers.
DESE has established an AMI Hotline that will operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily beginning Thursday, March 26, 2020. The AMI hotline will be staffed by DESE personnel and is intended to support school district officials, teachers, parents, and students who have AMI questions. We anticipate that many of the questions that we receive will most likely be district-specific questions; therefore, it is imperative that every school district have local personnel available to also answer questions or concerns from parents and students. Hotline staff will redirect calls to the district contact listed in the ADE Data Center as appropriate.
The AMI hotline number is 1-833-353-6050.
Health-related questions should still be directed to the COVID-19 Hotline or the School Designated COVID-19 Hotline (see below).
Career and Technical Information
Industry-Recognized Credential Testing
A potential “test-at-home” solution is currently being discussed for students preparing for industry-credential testing. Pending any major barriers, this option may be available to CTE students for final demonstration of knowledge and skill attainment. More information will be provided as it becomes available.
Coordination of Collection of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for COVID19
Many of the CTE medical programs, such as Medical Professions, Medical Lab, CNA, and some AG and Criminal Justice programs on high school, secondary center, and postsecondary campuses, have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) items as part of their minimum equipment list. The PPE gear includes protective gowns (not to be confused with patient gowns. Protective gowns are often yellow and made of a paper-type, disposable material), masks, face shields, gloves, protective eyewear, etc. CTE Coordinators are asked to inventory and add to the statewide donation list. Logistical instructions concerning dropping items off at the cooperatives will be provided soon.
Career and Technical Student Organization Spring Conference Changes
- The Future Business Leaders of America State Conference will occur virtually: virtual competitions and the opportunity for scholarships and other awards.
- SkillsUSA Conference and Championships have been cancelled.
- The Future Farmers of America State Conference has been postponed until summer. Some events will be held virtually leading up to the conference, and students will have an opportunity to receive scholarships and other awards.
On March, 23, 2020, the Division of Medical Services (DMS-Medicaid) released a policy update memorandum regarding the use of telehealth for Occupational, Physical, and Speech Therapy during the COVID-19 outbreak. The memorandum allows for therapy to be provided in the home of a student via telehealth and widens the technology options that may be used for this purpose. The DESE has distributed this information to various school personnel along with a document that provides clarifying points regarding the new DMS-Medicaid policy. The DMS memorandum may be found at the following website: https://humanservices.arkansas.gov/images/uploads/resources/Memorandum_DMS-04_%28DD-therapy-telehealth%29%28FINAL%29.pdf. Additional information will be made available on the DESE COVID-19 website.
Continuation of Meal Service
DESE appreciates the many efforts to provide meals to students during the time that schools are closed to onsite instruction. A total of 127 districts have reported that they plan to extend dates for non-congregate feeding in the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) throughout the closure. DESE is aware that many school districts’ food service program budgets are being affected with a reduction in reimbursements and continued ongoing costs. DESE is seeking ways to allow districts to recoup funds.
Additional Licensure Plan (ALPs), Administrator Licensure Completion Plans (ALCPs), & Emergency Teaching Permits (ETPs)
These will be approved, denied, or extended on a case-by-case basis. The current documentation process still applies. Email David.Baca@arkansas.govwith any questions regarding this process.
New Teacher Candidates
In coordination with Institutions of Higher Education, maximum flexibility will be utilized to ensure candidates are eligible for employment for the 2020-2021 school year.
General COVID-19 Information
MAIN COVID-19 Hotline: 1-800-803-7847
School Designated COVID-19 Hotline: 1-833-504-0155
The Arkansas Department of Health is identifying confirmed cases on the county level. If there are cases associated with students or staff in a school district, the student or staff member will be notified by health department officials. For the privacy of students and staff, the district will not share any information publicly. DESE knows that districts are committed to providing the safest learning environment and will follow the guidance provided by the CDC and the Arkansas Department of Education in conjunction with the Arkansas Department of Health.
Updates to COVID-19 GUIDANCE (UPDATED 3-20-2020)
Continued learning opportunities for students
It is important that during the extended closure there is a continuation of educational delivery of core content (English/Language Arts, math, science, social studies). While the focus for students for the remainder of the year needs to be on core academic areas for all grade levels, districts that can continue to provide instruction for elective courses may continue to do so; however, it is expected that many districts will have shortages of staff who can continue to provide instruction, and districts may need to focus on a more limited scope of course delivery. To assist districts in providing quality options for education, the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education is assisting districts with various options:
- Districts may continue to use their district AMI plans that provide ongoing learning activities using blended approach delivery options including digital, virtual, or delivery of educational packets to students.
- Districts may also utilize digital content through Virtual Arkansas Grades 9 (Canvas LMS with your district teachers).
- Districts may utilize digital content through the Arkansas Public School Resource Center.
- Districts may utilize the state-supported Arkansas AMI Learning Guides with Arkansas PBS (AETN) programming.
Details about delivery options listed above can be accessed here.
The DESE and Arkansas PBS have partnered to support teachers, families, and students by providing Arkansas AMI Learning Guides associated with PBS educational programming. An additional option for grades PK-8 will be available utilizing state-supported Arkansas AMI Learning Guides with Arkansas PBS (AETN) programming. Beginning March 30 on Channel 2, Arkansas PBS will alter its regular television programming to provide age-appropriate educational content for three specific grade bands (PK-2, 3-5, 6-8). The Arkansas AMI Learning Guides will support home-based instruction in association with the PBS educational television programs to promote activities that students and families may use to practice existing skills, learn new topics, and interact with one another in a meaningful way.
Suspension of requirements
Grading and attendance requirements have been suspended per Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s signed Executive Order 20-06. An amendment to his original emergency declaration regarding COVID-19 instructs state agencies to identify regulatory statutes, orders, and rules that are hindering or preventing the rapid response necessary to combat the spread of and recovery from COVID-19. The 30-day suspension of these provisions provides for districts to have maximum flexibility in making decisions regarding how to deliver instruction and monitor progress, including the reassignment of personnel to support educational delivery of core content. The suspension was in effect on March 17, 2020.
Communities are encouraged to engage with school districts to create safe learning zones where students can access Wi-Fi and technology support or pick up educational packets.
Seniors who are on track to graduate and in good standing as of the 3rd nine weeks reporting period will be considered “as meeting the graduation requirements” for the state of Arkansas. School districts may still implement local policies for honor graduates and class rank and should make local decisions regarding end-of-year engagement for current high school seniors regarding graduation. We encourage districts to find ways to continue to support seniors’ next steps, such as assisting with FAFSA, scholarship applications, applications for post-secondary opportunities, etc. Seniors who were not on track must be given the opportunity for credit recovery. Students enrolled in courses for weighted credit, such as AP or IB, should still receive weighted credit regardless of the ability of a student to take an AP/IB/or other assessment. It is important to note that waivers of the following have been approved for current seniors:
- Civics exam
- Digital Learning
- Personal Finance
Click here to access Arkansas Graduation Requirements.
Due to the extraordinary circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting school closures, states have been provided flexibility regarding the assessment and accountability requirements under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Given the widespread, extended school closures, and the interruption in school operations and on-site classroom education, Arkansas will cancel administration of state testing for the spring of 2020. This includes the ACT Aspire, the Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM), and the K-2 assessments. Arkansas will participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s expedited waiver process and will be seeking broad flexibility from both assessment and accountability provisions.
The special education guidance on the COVID-19 webpage will continue to be updated. Please continue to access it for ongoing information during the extension of school closures to on-site instruction.
Staffing during extended closure
We continue to have questions related to staffing during AMI days, related to both certified and classified staff requirements. The directive is that schools must be closed to on-site instruction; however, there are essential personnel who will need to continue to work, and there are essential duties that must be performed. Each district must identify essential personnel and essential work functions and will have to call upon staff accordingly. In some cases, essential staff may include teachers coming on-site to prepare AMI packets or to deliver virtual instruction from their classroom site. Classified staff may be needed to assist with meal delivery or assistance with AMI packets.
Individuals should adhere to the Arkansas Department of Health’s recommendations for social distancing and group size limitations. Individuals who have been advised or required to quarantine should follow the ADH requirements. No one should report to work if he/she is sick. Districts should recognize there are staff members who have higher risks due to health conditions or live in a household with persons at a higher risk and might need added flexibility. Districts have broad flexibility in providing opportunities for employees to work modified hours or to work from home. As a way to address concerns with docking pay of contracted staff who can’t or shouldn’t come to work, placing those individuals on paid administrative leave is an option.
Updates to COVID-19 GUIDANCE (UPDATED 3-18-2020)
The Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is looking at options to meet the needs of candidates in Educator Preparation Programs affected by COVID-19. We hope to have details out by Friday. We want to assure you that we are working to communicate options available for candidates.
For students in the Arkansas Professional Pathway to Educator Licensure (APPEL): Praxis testing centers are now closed through April. APPEL will allow candidates to apply for the 2020 APPEL application window, even if they have not met the testing requirements. They must meet ALL other criteria and fully submit the APPEL application. The criteria required are:
- Transcripts showing degrees conferred
- Proof of payment for background check
- Two (2) letters of recommendation, including contact information, for person making the recommendation
- Passing score reports for Praxis subject assessments are not required for application
Governor Asa Hutchinson has given indication he expects schools to be open on March 30, 2020. To that end, DESE is working towards guidance on reopening considerations for districts and families.
Updates to COVID-19 GUIDANCE (UPDATED 3-16-2020)
DESE COVID-19 Webpage: The Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has created a webpage devoted to education-related information regarding COVID-19. http://dese.ade.arkansas.gov/divisions/communications/covid-19-information
Special Education Services: Specific guidance for special education services in Arkansas can be found at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1x7gETXf-2hJidZ9GUXDxvcvQKUqD75MkT0Y--z6_O80/edit?usp=sharing.
Child Nutrition Information: On March 14, 2020, the United States Department of Agriculture approved a wavier for the DESE Child Nutrition Unit. The waiver is for non-congregate feeding in the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) due to unanticipated school closures due to the novel coronavirus. The approved waiver granted the following:
- Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) granted a waiver of the congregate feeding requirement for approved SSO sponsors in good standing through June 30, 2020, or upon expiration of the federally declared public health emergency, whichever is earlier.
- This flexibility allows, for approved Districts, to provide meals to be taken and consumed offsite, allowing for social distancing during the novel coronavirus.
- FNS also granted a waiver of the requirement that SSO meals be served at non-school sites during unanticipated school closures due to the novel coronavirus.
All Superintendents and Child Nutrition Directors were emailed on March 15, 2020, with step-by-step instructions. Districts closed due to COVID-19, must have an approved SSO site and complete the non-congregate feeding waiver, if needed. Contact the Child Nutrition Unit at 501-324-9502 if there are questions.
Updates to COVID-19 GUIDANCE (UPDATED 3-13-2020)
Gov. Asa Hutchinson held a press conference today and provided an update about COVID-19. The video of the press conference is available at https://bit.ly/39Pd5VF.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued recommendations on school closures. These recommendations, which are available at the following link, are based on science, reports, and by consulting with school health experts: https://bit.ly/39QxCci.
Updated Contact Information
In an effort to effectively field concerns related to school closures and school/student-related concerns of potential positive COVID-19 cases, the Arkansas Department of Health has designated a hotline for school personnel to utilize to report concerns. Additionally, Arkansas Children’s Hospital has designated a hotline number to field concerns related specifically to the known presumptive positive case at ACH mentioned in the March 12 press conference. For all other concerns, individuals should use the MAIN COVID-19 Hotline number. These pertinent numbers are listed below:
School Designated COVID-19 Hotline: 1-833-504-0155
Arkansas Children’s Hospital Hotline: 1-800-743-3616
MAIN COVID-19 Hotline: 1-800-803-7847
Districts can email education questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updates to COVID-19 GUIDANCE (UPDATED 3-12-2020)
Due to the growing number of presumptive positive COVID-19 cases, as well as a continued increase in the number of people who have come in direct contact with those who have the virus, the Arkansas Department of Health, in coordination with the Arkansas Department of Education, is closing all public schools in Grant, Jefferson, Pulaski, and Saline Counties. As of today (3-12-20), only schools in these four counties are being closed because of COVID-19.
Schools in these counties began dismissing students today and will remain closed until March 30. Schools have the option of utilizing Alternative Methods of Instruction, as well as determining the appropriate number of staff needed to ensure essential school functions (such as payroll, AMI days, etc.), are addressed. Schools also are asked to limit exposure by postponing all extracurricular activities. During this time, there are no restrictions to the number of consecutive days for which AMI can be used.
To ensure students continue to have access to nutritious meals during the closure, the Arkansas Department of Education has applied for two U.S. Department of Agriculture waivers that would allow the state to approve a school’s request to utilize the waivers to continue to provide meals for students during the closure. To learn more, go to https://bit.ly/2Qar9RM. More information will be provided as it becomes available.
The Arkansas Department of Health has been designated as the lead agency in coordinating information and response to the virus. ADH has established a dedicated phone line for school officials to call with questions: (833) 504-0155. The phone line is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For urgent after-hours needs or on weekends, call (800) 803-7847.
ADE will continue to provide updates as more information is available. Be sure to also follow the department on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Updates to COVID-19 GUIDANCE (UPDATED 3-11-2020)
Governor Hutchinson held a press conference this morning and released a proclamation that details action to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The proclamation can be accessed here. Because Arkansas has been planning a COVID-19 response for months, the state is well-positioned to begin containment efforts. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) will continue to act as the lead agency to work in concert with other state agencies to respond to the COVID-19 virus.
School and school activities will continue at this time, and the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), in consultation with the Arkansas Department of Health, shall provide guidance to local school districts and institutions of higher education to address concerns related to the virus and take all actions necessary to ensure the continuation of education. The Secretary of Health, in consultation with the Secretary of Education, shall have sole authority to close public school campuses throughout the state for reasons related to COVID-19. The situation will be monitored closely.
Should extended closures become necessary, the ADE understands the importance of coordination in planning and responding to needs and will provide as much guidance as possible in how closures should be conducted, including the handling of student and staff absences. The ADE is working with federal agencies and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to identify issues that will need to be addressed if school closures become necessary, such as possible modifications to state testing windows and continuation of meals for students in need.
It is also important to note that The Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has extended all approved 2019-2020 Alternate Methods of Instruction (AMI) applications for up to ten days.
State employees have been directed to clear their professional out-of-state travel plans with their Department’s Secretary. All citizens are asked, however, to review and rethink travel plans to consider whether plans will put themselves or others at higher risk of transmission. School districts should evaluate school-sponsored travel plans and ask school-district employees to consider risks associated with their personal travel plans, including spring break.
New Resource for Arkansas
The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is pleased to announce that UAMS HealthNow, its 24-hour digital connection to healthcare professionals, will soon offer free screenings for all Arkansans who have questions about whether they may have the COVID-19 virus. UAMS HealthNow site will have a screening tool with a series of questions about their symptoms, age, overall health, travel and other potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus and guide them regarding next steps, if any. This may include a video session with a UAMS HealthNow provider, advice to contact their local physician for further evaluation and possible testing for the virus.
People who have symptoms and who have been exposed to COVID-19 are urged not to visit a physician office, urgent care clinic, emergency room or hospital without first talking to the facility and getting instructions on how to prevent spreading the virus to healthcare providers and other patients.
This service will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to patients of all ages across the state of Arkansas and can be accessed from a smart phone, tablet, laptop, or computer. https://uamshealth.com/healthnow/
General Information and Guidance for Schools-Novel Coronavirus (ISSUED 3-3-2020)
While currently there are no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Arkansas, we recognize the importance of planning and communication to ensure the safety of all Arkansans. Because we share a primary responsibility for the safety and well-being of Arkansas students, the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) would like to provide guidance with the respiratory illness by COVID-19.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that usually cause mild respiratory illnesses such as the common cold. COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new coronavirus identified in humans this last December (2019).
The Arkansas Department of Health has been designated as the lead agency in coordinating information and response to COVID-19. Information can be accessed at: https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
Please review the detailed guidance from ADH, which is attached to this memo.
Guidance about Students and Staff Who Have Traveled or Possibly Been Exposed to COVID-19
At present ADH are monitoring travelers who have returned within the last 14 days from countries with sustained community transmission. At present these are the affected countries: China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, and Japan. As the epidemic spreads, we will likely also monitor travelers from other affected countries. Travelers from affected countries are advised to stay at home and monitor for symptoms until 14 days have passed from their departure from that country, while limiting interaction with others. Once 14 days have passed without any symptoms of illness, CDC recommends these travelers be allowed to return to school and public activities.
It is recommended that schools communicate with parents to let them know that the district is aware of the risk of COVID-19 internationally, the district is working with ADH to identify students and staff who may have traveled from the affected countries, and district staff will collaborate with ADH if any such students or staff are identified. Districts are requested to identify any student or staff who may have departed China (or, in the future, any other affected country) within the last 14 days. This information is permitted to be shared with ADH under the public emergency rule.
Schools should inform their school nurse if any students or staff have traveled to these countries so that the nurse can advise regarding home self-quarantine and assist with self-monitoring. Please report this information to ADH at 501-537-8969.
If a student is identified as having traveled from China (or other affected country) in the last 14 days and has symptoms (fever, cough, and shortness of breath), they should immediately be placed in a single room and have a mask placed on them. Others in the room should wear a mask. If physical contact is required, then gown, gloves and mask should be worn. Any suspected case (with symptoms) of COVID-19 should be reported to ADH immediately at 501-537-8969 (M-F 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM) or 1-800-554-5738 (after hours and weekends).
Unless students and staff are found to be at risk, schools do not need to take any special precautions beyond the normal recommendations to prevent the spread of viruses in schools. To reduce the risk for getting and spreading viral respiratory infections, including the flu and the common cold, encourage them to take simple steps to help prevent COVID-19. These include:
· Staying home when they are sick.
· Frequent hand washing with soap and water. If soap and water are not readily available, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
· Advising persons to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
· Following the school's routine cleaning and disinfection program.
· Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
· Urging students and staff to get a flu shot during the flu season.
· Providing adequate supplies for good hygiene.
The DESE will continue to coordinate with other state agencies and will provide ongoing updates as new information develops. Should it become necessary, outbreaks in school districts will be managed with assistance of the local Departments of Health and/or county office of emergency management; therefore, districts should communicate with local officials to plan accordingly.
Districts should also review approved Alternative Methods of Instruction (AMI) plans and communicate with teachers, parents and community members how decisions will be made if it’s determined that there is a need for Alternative Methods of Instruction. The Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has extended all approved 2019-2020 AMI applications for up to ten days. In addition, DESE will accept new AMI applications for the 2019-2020 school year from districts that did not previously apply. The deadline for submission is May 1, 2020.
School nurses and school administrators will continue to receive updated guidance as the DESE has new information to share.
Health related questions regarding the information provided in this memo may be directed to Cheria McDonald, State School Nurse Consultant, at email@example.com . For all other inquiries, contact Don Kaminar at John.Kaminar@arkansas.gov.