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Virtual learning on 'hold' for handful of Arkansas school districts next year

The State Board of Education has already put a hold on some school districts' virtual learning plans for the upcoming school year.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The State Board of Education has already put a hold on some school districts' virtual learning plans for the upcoming school year.

So far 150 districts have applied through the state for a virtual learning option for students. 

On Thursday the Department of Education presented the board with 11 applications. One was approved, and ten others got put on hold.      

"The board really just wanted to pause for a second,” said Stacy Smith, Arkansas Dept. of Ed. deputy commissioner.

Siloam Springs School District got the all-clear for a virtual learning platform, but other districts like Russellville and Springdale are on hold.

"We are going to have a work session,” said Smith. “We are going to bring in some of the districts whose applications were submitted and just let the board ask questions and understand, and make sure they are comfortable with the process of how we are vetting the applications."

The Department of Education went through a thorough vetting process before presenting the applications.

But the board still has concerns about the number of virtual students per classroom.

"It's been our experience here so far that virtual learning isn't the best for all students,” said Lisa Brewer, Bauxite School District counselor.

Bauxite Schools are cracking down on virtual learning.

They have their own application process as a part of their plan, not all students there will be approved for virtual learning.

"Students have to show that they have been successful in the learning environment,” said Brewer.

Although Bauxite agrees in-person learning is the best for students, administrators hope the state approves their virtual plan.

"We don't want to lose student population or enrollment to other schools who do get approved for virtual learning,” said Brewer.

The Department of Education said students want to be virtual but maybe their district isn’t approved, they still cannot leave for another district unless they meet school choice requirements.

"These digital programs that are being sought for right now are still about programming within a district. Boundary lines still exist,” said Smith.

Hundreds of school districts are awaiting the board’s approval.

May 20 is the department’s working board meeting.

On May 27, they expect to approve and possibly deny some of the applications.