The Little Rock School District released its plan for a return to school next month and it includes a significant change: face coverings will now be required.

Until today, the state-run district was following state suggested guidelines to allow parents to decide whether masks should be worn. Other districts were allowed to make that decision for themselves. Not Little Rock, which was made to follow the governor’s general preference for a recommendation, but not a requirement for masks.

Governor Hutchinson has blamed the earlier optional guidance on Superintendent Michael Poore. Poore has said that he adopted wording in state guidelines. Hutchinson’s Education secretary, Johnny Key. serves as the school board of the Little Rock District, which has been under state receivership since January 2015. Nothing happens in Little Rock without his approval and, thus, that of the governor.

So this has at least changed. The governor is generally resisting mask orders in most areas of Arkansas life, preferring to trust the good judgment of Arkansas people.

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Here’s the new Ready for Learning plan from LRSD.

Earlier today, Poore declined to answer my direct question on whether the optional mask decision was his alone. He said that issue would be addressed by the release of the new plan tonight.

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Poore’s letter with the guide says this:

Additionally, we are providing new proposed calendar options, which reflect adjustments based on the August 24th start date. Please review the following respective student and staff calendars and share your preference in the survey linked to the options.

Parents Option 1: Students will start school on August the 24th. Three days have been removed from the Thanksgiving break so that the semester can end prior to the winter break while still maintaining a two week break for the holidays. The last day for students will be May 26th.

Option 2: Students will start school on August the 24th. Three days have been removed from the Thanksgiving break so that the semester can end prior to the winter break while still maintaining a two week break for the holidays. The last day for students will be May 28th.

Staff Option 1: Teachers will report to work on August 11th with 8 days of Professional Development, collaborative team planning and working time. This will allow time for teachers to receive technology training customized to their needs and ability level, Social and Emotional Learning support and training and time to prepare their classrooms for students. (More details in survey)

Option 2: Teachers will report to work on August the 13th with 6 days of Professional Development, collaborative team planning and working time. Teachers will receive more general technology training, Social and Emotional Learning support and training and some time to prepare their classrooms for students.