Board Takes Look to the Future

Ken MClemore

HOPE — The Hope Public Schools Board got a first look Tuesday at the mechanism which Superintendent Dr. Bobby Hart said will be used to produce a plan for the return to school as the board considered the future in a strategic planning session.

In a “socially-distanced” session in the HPS board room conducted under COVID-19 protocols, Dr. Hart guided the board through discussions Tuesday about re-entry into the new school year, and what the HPS will aspire to do in an update of its mission and goals.

Hart acknowledged the key questions on everyone’s mind in addressing a post-COVID-19 school year by noting the district cannot go too far too fast without understanding what will be required by the state.

“We are all waiting,” he said, explaining that definitive guidance has yet to be received from the Arkansas Department of Education. “Things change quickly, and we will continue to follow Arkansas Department of Education and Centers for Disease Control guidance.”

Hart said he anticipates some form of definitive guidance from ADE by July, and wants recommendations in the board’s hands before that time.

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“I’ve asked each building principal to have a plan by June 8 in order to have a plan to present to you by your meeting June 15,” he said. “We will try to make informed and scientifically sound decisions.”

That plan will be a collaborative effort based upon working groups which will address specific areas of responsibility throughout the process of planning and returning to the operation of school campuses, Hart said.

“School will look different; going to the doctor’s office will look different; everything is going to look different,” he said.

Hart said the district’s leadership, campus leadership, teachers and staff have been incorporated into the process through three levels of planning and response:

—Executive leadership will be responsible for workforce, legal and finance planning and response that goes to the school board and comports with ADE, Arkansas Department of Health, and CDC guidance.

—Rapid Response leadership will be the conduit between the classroom and the executive leadership through four rapid response teams dealing with health and safety; social-emotional/mental health; equity and learning recovery; and distance learning. Rapid Response teams will receive support from the executive leadership.

—Professional Learning Communities at each campus level will plan for and respond to areas of teacher training, special education, distance learning, transportation, and logistics as applied at each campus in collaboration with campus principals.

“We are going to try to find the right choices,” Hart said.

A key concern from the board was the ability to remain flexible with the implementation of any planning. Hart said the ADE has already indicated flexibility in a number of areas will be extended to schools when a return to campuses is employed.

Hart also presented the board with a brief overview of the district’s on-going investigation of energy savings through alternative sources. In February, the board approved issuance of a Request for Proposal from solar energy company Entegrity regarding the development of a utilities usage plan for the district.

Hart said the company intends to provide the board with an update at its June 15 meeting regarding the possible construction of a solar array for the district.

The company is conducting a power usage “audit” for the district upon which it is expected to make its formal recommendations about sustaining utilities services later this year.

Hart also took the board through discussions regarding the “guiding principles” that determine the mission of the district, and how the board should look to the future as a reflection of its goals and next steps.

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