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As school begins in Arkansas, some parents worry as COVID-19 cases rise

The Little Rock School District has created a waiting list for virtual instruction as they assess staffing needs.

MAUMELLE, Ark. — The school day ended at Pine Forest Elementary with no problems.

On this first day of school, Arkansas classrooms are once again filled.

For parents like Natalie James, the thought of how safe their child will be during this surge of COVID-19 cases sticks with her every day.

“It is extremely difficult. We worked hard to get her where she was,” James said.

Her youngest daughter who is only 8 years old cannot be vaccinated.

So, James said she has decided to keep her as a virtual student.

“She can't wear [a mask]. I try to go out with her with the mask and usually it's halfway on her nose or underneath her nose, and it’s just too much,” James said.

She has run into a problem. Right now, her child is in the Little Rock School District and is on a waitlist for the virtual academy.

Her child’s first day started at home and not online.

“It's been pretty interesting, we are doing our own mommy mockup of virtual for ourselves until we actually get into virtual school,” James said.

James’ mother was a teacher for 34 years, so her daughter will be learning until they get a call back from the LRSD.

“We just need some better answers, and we just hope that this was thought out,” James said.

At the Pulaski County Special School District, the first day went on with no problems.

All the students enrolled at Pine Forest Elementary School returned to in-person classes today.

Officials with the school said there will be no virtual options at the school.

The principal, Yolanda Thomas, said students will wear masks while inside the building.

“My teachers are extremely excited that they just have to teach in the classroom, face to face with their students this school year,” Thomas said.

The rise in cases in Arkansas is disappointing to her, but she is hoping with all the precautions in place, in-person classes will stay this school year.

“The expectation is for there to be learning. I just know our kids will excel and do well under the conditions, and I still think we'll do well,” Thomas said.

Officials with LRSD said they have been making phone calls to parents to try and sold the shortage in virtual spots.

Right now, PCSSD only has 500 slots available for virtual students.

They have received approval for 250 more slots.

The authorization goes before the Arkansas Department of Education board on Thursday, August 19.


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