Parents, teachers, and students have a big job preparing to return to school this fall while still in the middle of a world pandemic. In preparation for back to school, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) announced the “Ready for School Resource Call Center”.

Reopening Arkansas Schools is going to be exceedingly difficult for our entire community, and ADE has established the call center to try and answer questions from parents, educators, and community members. The call center will be a public help line to provide all Arkansans information on schools reopening. The number is 1-833-353-6050 and the help line is open from 8 p.m. until 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Arkansas Children’s Hospital, University of Arkansas Medical School (UAMS), the Arkansas Bilingual Resource Network, and Arkansas Children’s Hospital has partnered with ADE to make the call center possible. Community partners, educational, and health professionals will field the calls. Also, this week, the ADE released the Arkansas Ready to Learn Healthy School Guide. Education, medical, and behavioral health experts assembled the guide. Every school is different; however, their goal is to provide best practices, guidelines, and the latest scientific advice. It will also help guide families, educators, and officials as they plan for in-person learning.

In addition to the call center and help line, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) has established an additional hotline specifically for school district personnel in case they have questions regarding:

a) students or staff who may have contracted COVID-19;
b) instructions on how to isolate staff and students to reduce the viral spread; and
c) information on quarantining individuals who may have close contact with students or educators.

The ADH and ADE hotline number is 1-833-504-0155. Information related to Coronavirus and schools reopening is changing daily. I will continue to work alongside other leaders to make sure District 11 stays informed.

In other community news, COVID-19 cases continue to rise around the country as well as in Arkansas. As of Friday, August 14, 2020, there were 626 new cases, five deaths, and seven new coronavirus patient hospitalizations in Arkansas.

I was fortunate enough to attend a forum here in Southeast Arkansas last week with Governor Hutchinson, educators, and business leaders. We visited about continued reopening strategies. The Governor shared that school sports will continue with the Arkansas Activities Association schedule with specified guidelines for indoor and outdoor sporting venues. Those guidelines include wearing a mask, social distancing, and limiting event entry to only 66 percent capacity.

Let us continue the fight at decreasing the pandemic spread, by following all safety practices. Wear masks and try to maintain six feet of social distance when possible. Sanitize common surfaces; wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; and stay home if you are sick.

If you have questions about any legislation or the legislative process, feel free to contact me via email at [email protected] or by phone at 501-682-6211.