New policy keeps schools on schedule
Carroll County students got to enjoy the snow this week without missing instruction time.
A new Arkansas law, Act 862 of 2017, allows public school districts to develop a plan for alternate methods of instruction (AMI) to be used on days when the superintendent closes school because of exceptional or emergency circumstances.
If a school district has an AMI plan in place that is approved by both the school board and the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), then the district can use that plan on emergency days and will not have to make them up later in the school year.
School districts were able to apply to ADE for up to 10 emergency days. If a district uses more than the emergency days it was approved for, then it will have to make some up.
Superintendent Owen Powell said the AMI days have helped the Berryville School District stay on schedule despite the schools being closed three days this week because of snow.
“The big thing with AMI is that we can send home all the work,” Powell said, “and, as long as the students complete the work, we can count those days as instructional days.”
Both teachers and students have AMI packets to complete on snow days, he said, and teachers have to be available to students online in case there are any questions on the assignments.
He said he has heard a lot of positive responses to the AMI days.
“Our students are getting instruction on a snow day,” Powell said, “and they don’t have to make it up at the end of the year. That really helps with instruction and the testing schedule.”
He said he has also heard a few negatives, such as the packets being a little lengthy.
Powell said he appreciates the hard work the district’s teachers and instructional facilitators put into developing the AMI packets.
“Our teachers and facilitators worked hard to make them something educational and valuable for our students,” he said. “Students are learning on a day when they normally wouldn’t. I’m thankful to our staff for making that possible.”
Superintendent Bryan Pruitt said the AMI days have been well-received by students at the Eureka Springs School District. The school used only two days of the AMI packets, Pruitt said, which gives the administration a chance to improve them for the future.
“There were some schools that have had to use four days of
them. I’m glad we didn’t have to burn all five in the beginning,” Pruitt said. “Now we can come back and assess that and see if we need to adjust it.”
School was in session on Thursday, Pruitt said, with the district running inclement weather bus routes.
“Everything seems to be going good. We’re still going to have to do the same thing tomorrow, because Holiday Island is a mess,” Pruitt said.
Because of the AMI packets, Pruitt said, the school can ensure that students are safe and still able to do their work.
“Safety is the main thing. We don’t want our kids to freeze to death, and we sure don’t want them to get in an accident,” Pruitt said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”
The district will be looking at ways to improve the packets, Pruitt said, while keeping the community’s input in mind.
“We know and we understand there may be some adjustments needed. We’re going to do that, because we don’t want our kids to get behind,” Pruitt said. “But overall, we’re pleased with it and tickled to have it. That way, we don’t have to stress out or worry about these days.”
He continued, “It’s pretty positive. We had a good day back today, and everybody seemed to be happy, so it’s all good. We’re just living the dream here in Eureka.”