The Benton School District has released its plan for the 2020-2021 school year and will be offering students the option to attend either in-person or virtually.
“As you may already be aware, Gov. (Asa) Hutchinson has declared that all public schools in the state will open sometime between Aug. 24 and Aug. 26,” said Superintendent Dr. Mike Skelton in a letter to parents. “As such, we have been diligently working on preparing for the upcoming school year. While many of the directives and mandates may change, forcing us to adjust our plans, one thing that will not change is our dedication and our commitment to the safety and well-being of all the students, staff and community members.”
All staff and students in grades K-12 will be required to wear face coverings when social distancing is not possible. Those students with health issues and special needs that prevent them from wearing face masks will not be required to do so. Masks can be removed if social distancing is possible and while eating, at recess or participating in high aerobic activity.
Students not wearing masks will be found in violation of the dress code. If a student refuses to wear a mask they will be considered insubordinate.
While parents are encouraged to provide masks for their children, the district will provide one washable mask for each student that needs one.
Skelton said schools across the district have been meeting with parents and staff to gather input on how to serve the needs of all the students. Additionally, the district has been collecting feedback from parents, staff and students via surveys and other means to understand their needs and desires.
“While there is no single course of action that will please everyone, we hope to have a plan in place that provides for the safety and learning for every child in the district,” Skelton said. “Please know there are still some unanswered questions that we are working through, and with feedback from everyone, we hope to have those questions answered as soon as possible. If you wish to provide feedback, please feel free to reach out to your child’s principal.
“I know these times of uncertainty can be unsettling for many. The support from the parents and the community through all of this has been very encouraging, and I appreciate everyone’s understanding and patience as we prepare for a great school year.”
In his letter, Skelton added that it is the district’s plan to offer traditional learning when it is possible and that parents will soon receive a survey asking how they would like their children to attend (in-person or virtually) so that the schools can prepare. The survey will be sent July 27 and responses are required by July 31.
For those attending virtually, K-9 will be led by Benton teachers and will feature the same material as in-classroom learning. For grades 10-12, core classes and many electives will also be taught by Benton teachers. Some electives will be unavailable for students virtually due to the need for hands-on instruction or certain supplies and tools.
All virtual students must have access to reliable internet or be able to arrange visits to a location with internet access. Available locations will be listed on the districts social media page.
Social distancing guidelines will be in place for all traditional learning. Classrooms and cafeteria spaces have been redesigned to increase space, however, it cannot be guaranteed. The sharing of work surfaces and supplies will be minimized.
Should a student test positive for COVID-19, the district will contact the Arkansas Department of Health which will be responsible for contacting all affected individuals. A positive test could result in the brief closure of a classroom, grade level or school for additional cleaning.
For on-site students, absences due to being quarantined or those required to isolate due to possible exposure will not count against the student.
Full-time virtual students will be able to participate in extracurricular activities, however, some activities, such as athletics, require onsite attendance during the activity.
All students will have the same arrival and dismissal times unless the ADH requires a change.
No large gatherings will be allowed so activities such as assemblies and pep rallies will not be held. Those activities will resume when it is safe to do so.
Dr. Skelton’s letter and the reopening plan is available to read in full at www.bentonschools.org.