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Administrators in the Siloam Springs School District are working on plans for school bus meal delivery and internet safe zones for students when digital learning resumes on Monday after spring break.

Schools across the state are closed for on-campus instruction through April 17 due to covid-19 concerns.

The school closings and ban on large gatherings have left end-of-year events such as prom and graduation up in the air. In Siloam Springs, prom has been postponed indefinitely but not canceled, according to Shane Patrick, director of operations for the district. The University of Arkansas announced that local high schools, including Siloam Springs, will not be able to use Barnhill Arena for commencement ceremonies this year, he said.

The district is looking at other options for graduation locations, such as the high school football stadium, as it tries to determine what will be best for the safety of the students as well as the other parties involved, Patrick said. It is still unknown if large gatherings will be allowed in May, he said. The district may also get direction from the state Department of Education on graduation, he said. All options are on the table, including postponing the event, he said.

"We know how important it is and what an important day it is for seniors and their families, and we want to make sure they have that opportunity," Patrick said.

Secretary of Education Johnny Key announced Friday that Arkansas high school seniors who are in good standing at the conclusion of the third nine-week grading period will meet state graduation requirements, according to a report in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Patrick said that most school districts have higher graduation requirements than the state. Siloam Springs has not made any decisions on graduation requirements and seniors will still be required to do classwork after spring break, he said.

Arkansas students will be excused from taking state and federally required testing, including end-of-year exams for high school students and ACT Aspire tests for students in grades three through 10, Key announced Friday. There is a possibility that students taking Advanced Placement courses will be able to take their tests online at home and earn credit for their classes, Patrick said.

Siloam Springs Schools plan to deliver free meals by bus route starting Monday, Patrick said. School buses will run their regular routes between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and deliver lunches along with breakfasts for the following day to any child under the age of 18, whether or not they are a student, he said. The district also plans to continue offering grab-and-go meals at Allen Elementary School, the middle school and the high school, he said.

The meal delivery plan will not only give many additional students access to meals, but will also keep bus drivers and food service employees working while schools are closed, Patrick said. More details about meal delivery plan will be released later in the week, he said.

The district is also working with the city and community members to finalize a plan for outdoor safe WiFi internet zones, both inside and outside city limits, Patrick said. The zones will be located in areas such as parks, as well as in parking lots of schools and public buildings such as the Siloam Springs Public Library, he said. The district is working with Siloam Springs police and the Benton County Sheriff's Office to provide extra patrols for the areas, he said. More specifics about the safe WiFi zones will be available later in the week, he said.

Patrick said he has heard there is a backlog of people who are trying to connect to Cox Cable through their program for reduced cost internet for low income families of kindergarten through 12th grade students. He encouraged families to go ahead and get on the list to get internet access if they qualify for the program and said it is his understanding that Cox is working through the backlog. The program is available year-round, not just during the current school closures, he said.

General News on 03/25/2020

Print Headline: School plans to provide meal delivery, internet zones

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