Tue December 22, 2020

By Shelly B Short

Board Beefs up COVID-19 Response

Ken McLemore

HOPE — The Hope Public Schools Board approved four positions and agreed to continue a “Flex Friday” schedule for all campuses Monday night to beef up the HPS response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Superintendent Dr. Bobby Hart asked the board to create a COVID-19 Learning Recovery Program with a program administrator, one summer teaching position and a summer intervention coordinator.

Dr. Hart said the COVID-19 Learning Recovery Program will replace the traditional summer school element of the school year.

“We are not looking for a regular summer school; this has got to be different,” he said. “We want it to be inviting to students; and we want it to be another bat to swing to give students more opportunities.”

The K-4 program will provide the template for a similar program in upper grades later once the impact of COVID-19 has been established, Hart said. He said some pre-kindergarten age children have not started school this year because of COVID-19 and others have fallen behind because they have not fully engaged while being instructed virtually.

Funding for the proposed summer program will be taken from federal CARES Act monies.

Hart also sought authority to create an Assistant Point of Contact position for COVID-19 reporting. He said Bobcat Clinic Director Gretchen Carlton is the official reporting source for COVID-19 cases originating in the Hope Public Schools. Carlton works directly with the Arkansas Department of Health in the reporting and monitoring of cases, close contact tracing, and clearance reporting of COVID-19.

“She has a heart for what she is doing; but, she needs some help,” Hart said.

Campus principals updated the board on the impact of the “Flex Friday” concept which has been in place since October. Each Friday becomes an entirely “virtual” instruction day to accommodate teacher workloads outside of the regular class day created by a dual on-campus/online system.

Principals noted teachers have been able to keep pace better with the dual system as planning time and remediation instruction have been carved out of the weekly schedule to manage both on-campus and online student needs.

“It has taken an enormous weight off the teachers’ shoulders,” Clinton Primary School Principal Ashlea Stewart said.

Other principals agreed that, while fewer students are on campus each Friday teachers have been active in keeping contact with both students and teachers.

Hope High School Principal Bill Hoglund said his research showed both teachers and students are engaged despite lower campus attendance on Fridays.

“I was pleased with the number of students who were online doing work,” Hoglund said.

The board voted unanimously to continue the “Flex Friday” concept through the end of the 2020-2021 academic year unless Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson ends the public health emergency declared because of the COVID-19 crisis.

In other actions Monday, the board:

—Approved the CARES Act funds purchase of a box truck for meals delivery and furniture moving.

—Approved the replacement of a maintenance department pickup truck through Arkansas state procurement.

—Heard a tentative proposal for an upgrade to the press box at Hammons Stadium and future repairs to Jones Field House.

—Approved personnel recommendations.