Crossett School District Superintendent Gary Williams said that Crossett schools have been preparing for blended learning in August while keeping watch on the state health guidelines in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state closed all schools in late March and eventually extended the closures through the end of the school year. Local districts completed their academic coursework using Alternative Methods of Instruction — which were not originally orchestrated to be a long-term plan.

Williams said that the Crossett School District is hoping for the best, but planning to be prepared for whatever August brings.

Williams said AMI was designed to get a district through a day or two of snow or maybe a day dismissal for flu if infection numbers got too high. 

The district is now working on other methods to insure that educators and students are able to keep moving forward in whatever circumstances August sees.

Williams said he met with the principals and some of the teaching staff and they are currently working on a blended plan, which includes a combination of both campus and virtual learning.

Williams told the board about the challenges that the districts in rural Arkansas face because of limited Internet access and how that hindered some of the students this past spring. 

Williams said the district will be working on finding ways to download content and possibly deliver the downloaded content to students if needed.

Williams also said all of this is just out of precaution because he doesn’t anticipate being out of school for longer than two weeks, if that.

School board member Eddie Goodson said that the school board needed to do something to formalize a complaint to AT&T, Windstream, and Media 3 regarding the area’s limited access to the Internet.

“We need to put pressure on them publicly and say our kids our suffering,” Goodson said. “We need to tell these companies you’re hurting kids because you’re product is so inferior.”

He referenced the trouble that some of the school board members faced while trying to attend meetings via zoom and the multiple delays and sound issues due to the area’s slow internet.

Williams said that he agreed with Goodson that exposing the need may help, but also said that there are issues in rural areas nation wide. 

“You’re right, you have to expose a need to get results, but these challenges aren’t unique to Crossett,” Williams said.

Williams said that he would offer more information to the public as information became available to him, but at this time it could be expected that the district will open in August.  

In other news:

4The board adopted the program Capturing Kids Hearts as district wide program. 

Capturing Kids Hearts is a program that teaches the school staff and administrators skills they will use and model in their classrooms such as how to build meaningful and productive relationships with students, how to use the EXCEL Model of teaching to create a safe effective environment, how to develop self-managing and high performing classrooms using team building as well as techniques for dealing with conflict, disrespect and other behavioral issues.

4The board agreed on a food service contract. This year lunch will increase by six cents and breakfast by three cents. Snacks will increase by 1.5 percent.

4Williams reported that the district’s legal balance was a little low as the tax income had been lower than the budgeted income. However, he said that as people pay their taxes in July and August those numbers were expected to increase and get back on track. Williams said it’s a timing issue because of the tax due date and the way the school financials are set up.

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