Arkansas closes in-person classes for remainder of school year

Arkansas Secretary of Education Johnny Key speaks next to Gov. Asa Hutchinson at the governor’s Monday COVID-19 briefing.

Students in Arkansas will not return to class this school year due to the continued spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday announced that in-person classes will remain closed through the end of the semester, but Alternative Methods of Instruction (AMI) will continue.

Classes were first suspended March 16 until further notice because of the virus outbreak. The governor later announced a temporary plan to reopen schools on April 20, but eventually decided not to reopen in-person classes at all for the remainder of the year.

Secretary of Education Johnny Key said the statewide AMI plan had specific lessons planned through April 17, and can be extended another two weeks through May 1. Key said that should give districts enough time to come up with their own AMI plans to last through the end of the school year.

Key urged district officials to be flexible when developing their AMI programs.

“It is impractical to try to replicate the school experience when children are at home,” said Key. “So we need to help parents and students by establishing flexible schedules for learning that consider that they may need access to learning supports outside of the typical 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. school day schedule.”

State COVID-19 case updates

Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said the number of positive COVID-19 cases had reached 875 as of Monday afternoon. That’s an increase of 45 cases since Sunday. The state now has 65 counties with infected patients after adding Izard County.

Almost 32% of all infected patients have one or more underlying medical conditions, Smith said.

Smith said there are now 74 patients hospitalized, up seven from 67 this time yesterday. There are 22 patients on ventilators, down from 17 Sunday. Deaths remain at 16, he said.

Five more people have recovered from the illness since yesterday, for a total of 102 recoveries across the state.

Hutchinson presents doubling duration data

Gov. Hutchinson said the doubling time of statewide cases has increased, which he said is a sign that the measures taken in Arkansas to slow the spread of COVID-19 are working.

According to data presented by the governor on Monday, duration to doubling has grown to a full week. Case counts in Arkansas have doubled seven times since the first patient tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the governor’s data. Five of those instances occurred between one and three days. The most recent doubling took place over a full seven days, the governor said.

“What we’re doing in Arkansas is having significant beneficial impact,” Hutchinson said. “So I want to encourage everyone in Arkansas during this critical week to continue to be responsible by following the social distancing recommendations and when you can’t be socially distant, wear a mask to protect yourself and others.”

While the spreading seems to have slowed a bit, Hutchinson said the end is not yet in sight.

“It is clear that this is going to go on for some time,” he said.