AEA Statement on School Closures and COVID-19

Today, (3-12-2020) Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that beginning March 13, all schools in Pulaski, Jefferson, Saline and Grant counties will be closed until March 30. This includes Spring Break in Arkansas from March 23-March 27.  

Due to risks associated with COVID-19 and direct contact with individuals, state officials said ADE could not isolate schools and made the decision to close all public charter schools and public schools in the four counties affected. This is not a statewide closure; however, the state department, along with the health department, is closely following the situation and will determine next steps as additional information becomes available. 

Pre-K programs under ABC (Arkansas Better Chance) will also be closed in the four counties.  

Schools are asked to implement Alternative Methods of Instruction (AMI) policies.  Additional information about AMI days can be found here.  

The Arkansas Education Association recognizes that public schools provide a great number of safety net services for our students and their families. In addition, we know our students do not come from an equal playing field with the same resources. Our schools are often the place where students receive these resources, such as food.  In an effort to begin to address this need, the State of Arkansas has applied for a child nutrition waiver from the USDA which will allow for greater food distribution optionsOfficials say the waiver will be similar to the summer “Grab and Go” feeding program.  

AEA also recognizes this change in instructional delivery may disproportionally impact classified and hourly school employees. While staffing during these closures is a district-level decision, we are acutely aware classified and hourly employees may have significant hardship in meeting the needs of their own households.  

“Each public school employee plays a critically important role in keeping our students safe, healthy, fed, and supported,” said AEA President Carol Fleming. We must not forget the uncertainty and hardship these closures bring to our students and educators. We encourage our school districts to keep health and safety top of mind while we all work together to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”  

Arkansas Education Association leadership is in contact with state officials as this situation unfolds and stands ready to support students, families and school employees through this unprecedented situation.  

We will post updates HERE as additional information becomes available. AEA has also put together a set of resources for Arkansas educators HERE.

You can find more information about COVID-19 from the Arkansas Department of Education HERE.

Adults with child-related COVID-19 concerns should call a health hotline set up by Arkansas Children’s Hospital: 800-743-3616. 

Guidance about Students and Staff Who Have Traveled or Possibly Been Exposed to COVID-19 

At present the Arkansas Department of Health is monitoring travelers who have returned within the last 14 days from affected countries and individuals who have had close contact to known cases. Travelers from affected areas are advised to stay at home and monitor for symptoms until 14 days have passed from their departure from that area, while limiting interaction with others. Once 14 days have passed without any symptoms of illness, CDC recommends these travelers be allowed to return to school and public activities. 

  • It is recommended that schools communicate with parents to let them know that the district is aware of the risk of COVID-19, the district is working with ADH to identify students and staff who may have traveled from the affected communities and district staff will collaborate with ADH if any such students or staff is identified.
  • Districts are requested to identify any student or staff who may have traveled from a country with community transmission within the last 14 days (see link for currently affected countries with Level 2 or 3 Travel Notice: : This information is permitted to be shared with ADH under the public emergency rule. 
  • Districts are also requested to identify and report to ADH staff or students who have close contact (such as household) with a laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19.
  • Schools should inform their school nurse if any student or staff has traveled to these countries so that the nurse can advise regarding home self-quarantine and assist with self-monitoring.
  • If a student is identified as having traveled from an affected area in the last 14 days and has symptoms (fever, cough, and shortness of breath), they should immediately be placed in a single room and have a mask placed on them. Others in the room should wear a mask. If physical contact is required, then gown, gloves and mask should be worn.
  • Any suspected case (with symptoms) of COVID-19 should be reported to ADH immediately at 1-800-803-7847.