Parent Responses Vary on LRSD’s Ready-for-Learning Decision

Tuesday, Jan 11, LRSD Superintendent Mike Poore released a Ready for Learning Update. Included was the announcement that students would be returning to in-person learning on Jan 12, except nine schools that had a significant percentage of their staff/leadership quarantined. These nine schools will remain virtual through Jan 14. 

This update was preceded by an announcement from Poore Jan. 7, to transition LRSD schools to virtual learning Jan. 10-11 because of an increase in positive COVID cases. 

Responses to the decision to return to in-person school are scattered among parents. Some believe that school should have never closed on Jan 7, others believe that it should have never opened after the Winter Break. 

Amy Harkins is a parent of a sophomore at Central and views the transition neutrally. 

“My view is that I want to do what I think is within reason and in the best interest of my family and my child. In the same vein, I don’t want to pass judgment on anyone that sees it differently,” Harkins said. “I would like to give people space to feel what they feel and make the decisions that they feel are best. No judgment. Because really it is none of my business. For that reason, I will send my child to school in person as long as he is comfortable with it.”

Sheena Patterson, Central Alumni and parent to a first, second, and third-grader at Western Hills Elementary and a seventh-grader at JA Fair views the transition to in-person learning in a different light.

“I absolutely do not support the decision to reopen,” Patterson said. “The affected rate of children with the virus is going up drastically.” 

Jan. 7, the LRSD shortened the time required to quarantine to five days in accordance with the new guidelines from the Arkansas Department of Health. 

Patterson commented on the struggle for students socially to be away from peers but emphasized the importance of safety first. 

“Most children, especially elementary aged, don’t understand what we’re actually dealing with. They can’t grasp that they can’t play with their friends the way they once did because they could get sick. It’s not fair to the teachers either,” Patterson said. 

A parent who wishes to remain anonymous also commented on the social effect on students. 

“My kids love school but I want to keep my kids safe,” they said. “Some kids cannot get the shots due to personal reasons. What makes other people think that since school has started that students, staff, bus drivers, etc. have not had or come in contact with COVID?”

Other parents see the impact of being socially isolated from peers as a reason to continue in-person learning.

“For us, we have all been vaccinated and we wear masks. I am willing to let my child go back to school because I believe that the social aspect of school plays an important part of his development,” Harkins said. “We have done what the experts have requested so I am fine with getting out and being among people in a smart and responsible way.”

The Ready for Learning plan listed full mask compliance, sanitizer, air purification, limits on large group gatherings, and assessment of the COVID case numbers each day as barriers to remaining safe in an in-person setting. 

Corie Hollingsworth, parent to a senior at Central and an eighth grader at Pulaski Heights Middle supports the return as long as these barriers remain in effect.

“I am a laboratory scientist and have a little more knowledge of COVID than the typical layperson,” Hollingsworth said. “I support in-person learning as long as students, teachers, and staff are wearing masks and are practicing good hand hygiene. Our future is unpredictable, we don’t know when we will be exposed or have to quarantine as individuals.” 

Parents are also split on the decision to keep only nine schools virtual. 

“I applaud the decision made by the district to evaluate each school individually on when in-person learning resumes,” Hollingsworth said. 

The parent who wishes to remain anonymous thinks the decision needs to be unanimous. 

“If some schools are virtual for the rest of the week, I think all the schools should be virtual. Regardless if it is Pre-K or high school,” they said. 

The decision on virtual or in-person learning lies in the jurisdiction of the district, not the state. 

“I think the state did the right thing by handing the decision-making over to the individual districts,” Harkins said. “I also think that giving the district these choices allows those district constituents the ability to see if they agree with the decision-making process of those they have elected into those positions.”


(The LRSD provides meals for students who are learning virtually. Call your child’s school, or the LRSD Child Nutrition Office for meal support – 501-447-2458)