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Mostly smooth, not-so-normal return to classes in Little Rock during pandemic

A staggered start to the school year kept class sizes down and eased teacher concerns as classes began during the coronavirus pandemic.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The administration of the state's second-largest school district declared the first day of the school year to be "mostly positive" despite uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We're having to adjust on the fly much quicker, and changes are happening more rapidly than ever before," said Little Rock School District Superintendent Michael Poore.

Monday saw the opening of a new high school, Little Rock Southwest, and included an appearance by Mayor Frank Scott Jr. to help greet the students.

But a staggered start based on last names and thousands choosing virtual learning, meant far fewer students filing in.

"We're only going to have about 25 to 30 percent of our kids showing up in person on each day that we have school this week," Poore said.

Those projections panned out with only a handful of classes seeing more than 12 kids. 

About 50 teachers called in sick, with all but a few classes covered by substitutes. 

Poore said Central High and Cloverdale Middle both needed a few classes covered by staff.

Outside historic Central, some late-deciders who hadn't chimed into the polls about which method of instruction they would use lined up to confirm class schedules or pick up chrome books.

With one of the largest percentages of online students in the state, Poore said virtual classes began with only a few glitches.

"We had a few bumps to begin the morning," he said. "Some of that was caused on our part, but then others were caused from just parents need to become more familiar with the tool."

Nationally, a major glitch with Zoom meetings affected places like Atlanta and Conway this morning. 

The LRSD escaped that for the most part, with hiccups coming because of login errors that made held up connecting to the "Schoology" learning platform.

Now the focus shifts to getting everyone's health and health consciousness to hold up. Poore said they need help from parents.

"Our staff has gone to great lengths to try and do everything right," he said. "But we need them to talk their students about the importance of wearing the masks and making sure that they sanitize. We all have to have the same messages over and over and over."

According to the Little Rock School District, one student has positive for the virus. The school said no contacts were found at the school for the student.

Two other students and five staff members are quarantining due to a family member testing positive.