New school board members seated, teaching during school closures discussed

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 593 views 

Dee Blackwell and Dalton Person are sworn in to the Fort Smith Public School Board by Sebastian County Circuit Judge James Cox.

The Fort Smith Public Schools board has two new members, a new slate of officers and an update on how the district’s Alternative Methods of Instruction (AMI) will work through school closures due to COVID-19.

Dalton Person, at large, and Dee Blackwell, Zone 3, were unopposed in the school elections held March 3. Both were sworn in by Sebastian County Circuit Judge James Cox as the newest members of the school board at the board’s regular meeting Monday night (March 16). Greg Magness and Jeannie Cole did not run for reelection.

The board also elected a new slate of officers at the meeting. Bill Hanesworth replaced Susan McFerran as the board’s president. McFerran served three terms as president of the board. Talicia Richardson will be the board’s vice president and Blackwell will be the secretary.

Martin Mahan, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, told the board that AMI the district had ready to go in case of snow days or other missed days this year would be more than enough to get students through the closure that is set through the end of spring break, March 27. The district develops 10 alternate lessons for students in various age groups to be used during the case of missed school. With the start of the closing Monday, students had nine lessons remaining for the year. Only five will be needed this week, as the week of March 23-27 was already set as spring break.

Student in seventh through 12th grades have access to Google Classroom through the laptop computers assigned to them. Educators are making it so students in second through sixth grade also will have access to Google Classroom, so teachers can build lessons as the see the need, Mahan said.

Employees are developing plans for students if the need for at home learning continues after March 30, Mahan said.

“If per chance we go past that nine day AMI package that is already created, we will be prepared to continue robust and rigorous education …,” he said.

Students needing to use their laptops for lessons can do so even if they do not have internet service at home, Mahan said, noting the district had purchased thumbdrives that students can use. They come to their school, pick up the thumbdrive, download all needed material and take it with them, he said.

Dr. Terry Morawski, deputy superintendent, also reported to the board that the district would use the time when no one was in the schools over spring break to do a deep cleaning of the buildings in order to make the return to campuses safe for students and employees.