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Start of Arkansas school year pushed back due to COVID-19 worries

Local and federal officials are debating how to safely reopen schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Local and federal officials are debating how to safely reopen schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 4:27 PM CDT
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - The start of the 2020-21 school year in Arkansas is now moved back to Aug. 24, to no later than Aug. 26.

Gov. Hutchinson said the change in date, with schools scheduled to start Aug. 13, was to give school districts an opportunity to get more prepared on the issue.

Education Secretary Johnny Key said state education officials will work with local districts on the issue, including health and safety in dealing with COVID-19.

Key said the state will not change the contract days for school teachers and will work with districts on making sure there is a full school year. Key said state officials have not considered whether or not to close schools between Thanksgiving and the beginning of 2021, while the school year is expected to end in late May-early June 2021, depending on the district’s calendar.

Gov. Hutchinson also said work will be done to be flexible with districts, especially when it comes to social distancing concerns and dealing with masks and busing students to school.

Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith said physical distancing is key, plus officials want to protect the teacher to avoid getting sick and to avoid spreading COVID-19 in the community.

Dr. Smith said masks and physical distancing are helpful in avoiding the spread.

Gov. Hutchinson said districts will be coordinating with the Arkansas Department of Education and the Arkansas Department of Health on ways to avoid spreading COVID-19.

Asked about sports, Gov. Hutchinson said he is hopeful that athletes will be able to play and that schools must follow the model from ADH, the Department of Education, plus use the flexibility for local districts.

Gov. Hutchinson also reported 806 new COVID-19 cases in the state, with 26,052 cumulative cases.

Officials said 394 people are currently hospitalized, up 36 from Wednesday.

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