Local schools put new law into practice
Much-anticipated snow days shut down all schools in Drew County this week. Monticello School District, Drew Central School District, the University of Arkansas at Monticello and Monticello Christian Academy all closed yesterday and today to allow students to enjoy the winter weather and hopefully avoid unsafe driving conditions.
Monticello and Drew Central Schools declared the snow days Alternative Methods of Instruction days.
Act 862 of 2017 allows a public school district and open-enrollment public charter school to develop a plan for alternative methods of instruction to be used on days when the superintendent closes school due to exceptional or emergency circumstances. As stated in the legislation, the Commissioner of Education may grant up to the equivalent of 10 student attendance days for public school districts that have an alternative instruction plan approved by the commissioner for the use of alternative methods of instruction, including without limitation virtual learning, on days when the public school district is closed due to exceptional or emergency circumstances such as: a contagious disease outbreak, inclement weather, or other acts of God; or a utility outage.
The public school district’s alternative instruction plan shall demonstrate how teaching and learning in the public school district will not be negatively impacted by the use of alternative methods of instruction.
The Drew Central School District was approved for three AMI instruction days and the Monticello School District was approved for five AMI days for the 2017-18 school year.
"I would encourage parents to give as much feedback as possible to teachers and the administration," State Rep. LeAnne Burch said. "The good news is, by utilizing this new opportunity, we do not have to add another day of instruction to the end of the year."
Letters were sent home to the parents of students at Monticello and Drew Central last semester explaining the details of the AMI opportunity. Each school sent home packets with daily work for the students to complete that is similar to what would be done in the classroom. The schools utilize new technology such as chrome books and other electronic devices to help students complete the AMI packets.
Both school districts encourage parents to give feedback about the AMI opportunity.
"We tried to keep several things in mind when preparing the packets," Kimbraly Barnes, Director of Instruction at Drew Central said. "First, what was ‘doable’ for the student and parent especially if the home was without electricity due to weather. Secondly, SEARK weather is so unpredictable; how many days of work do we ask our students, teachers and other personnel to complete if they were dealing with flooding, ice or other emergency situations due to nature? Finally, we wanted the work to be relevant but all review material and not introduce any new concepts while the students may or may not have access to the teacher."
Sandra Lanehart, Superintendent for the Monticello School District, added: "We will include both print and electronic devices and programs in an effort to combat lost instructional time and learning due to hazardous weather conditions or other emergency days. The Monticello School District strives to provide the best educational experience for your child regardless of the weather or exceptional circumstances."