Group demands phased-in approach for schools in Arkansas during pandemic

Arkansans Taking Action for Safe School Reopening is calling for at least 2 weeks of virtual learning and no in-person instruction until COVID-19 cases drop.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark — Teachers and parents are pleading with Governor Asa Hutchinson to start the school year online until Arkansas sees a drop in COVID-19 cases. 

The group, known as “Arkansans Taking Action for Safe School Reopening,” stood outside the governor’s mansion on Saturday night to remind him that the clock is ticking. 

“You have one week. One week from today, really, to decide to do the right thing,” Tara Browning, one of the creators of the group, said. 

The right thing for their group, according to Browning, means remote learning. 

“We think virtual opening is the best way to go right now and we want to do a phased-in approach,” she said. 

Browning said they are calling for at least two weeks of virtual learning and they believe no schools should open for face-to-face instruction until the positivity rate for that county is 5% or less.

“It does not make sense to us for the schools to be about to open 100% capacity, potentially, but yet nowhere else is open 100%,” she said. 

A Pre-K teacher in the River Valley, Browning isn’t concerned for her own safety if she heads back into the classroom, but for the ones she loves.

“I do know that I take things home to my family a lot though and that I’ve had family members that have gotten the flu and I know it’s directly from me carrying it home to them,” she said. 

Browning said the group represents all over Arkansas and is made up of members who are apart of different groups across the state fighting the same fight, like Arkansas Grassroots and the Little Rock Education Association. 

Every single one of them just wants the governor to listen to their cries. 

“We’re going to be there, we’re going to be doing our jobs. We’re going to do everything we can to reach all of our students, but we want it done in a safe way,” she said. 

Browning added we could see more events, like this one, from different groups across the state as we approach the start of school.