Fort Smith Public Schools will go to online learning Friday (Jan. 15) and Tuesday (Jan. 19) though schools will be open to students. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Jan. 18 is a scheduled holiday for students and teachers. On-site learning will resume on Jan. 20.
The decision to move to online learning those days was made in part because of a growing need to fill positions due to absences of teachers and school staff, a news release said.
“Principals have done a remarkable job in filling needs for supervision in classrooms, but it is a challenge every day,” the news release said.
The district did not respond to questions from Talk Business & Politics about why there are not enough substitutes to cover absences, if the number of absences was higher than usual or if the issue had anything to do with COVID-19.
According to the Arkansas Department of Health, FSPS had 91 active COVID-19 cases Jan. 11. From June 15 to Jan. 11, there have been 857 cumulative cases, up 37 from the 820 cumulative cases reported on Jan. 7. Of those 857, 235 were faculty and staff and 583 were students.
Students who participate in the FSPS Virtual learning programs in all grades will keep their regular schedules on both virtual learning days. On-site students in kindergarten through 12th grades will be able to attend school on both days, as needed. The district’s preschools do not offer the online learning option and will be open for its students both days as usual. Parents should plan to bring their preschoolers to class on these days.
The district also went to online learning only for a few days in November because of the difficulty in finding enough substitutes to cover teacher absences. Feedback from parents, teachers and community members at that time “indicated that it would be helpful to have as much advance notice of the pivot as possible, and that it would be helpful if children could attend on-site if they needed to do so,” the release said.
In response to that request, all FSPS buildings will be open Friday and Tuesday. FSPS buses will run as normal. Child nutrition will provide meals on-site as well as grab-and-go meals at the regularly scheduled times, the release said. All school employees will report to their workplaces and school buildings on these online learning days.
“Teachers will be a resource for online lessons in their classrooms,” the release said. “This is considered a typical work day in respect to leave.”
Special events including athletic competitions will continue as scheduled.