Speaking of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

The newspaper’s Kat Stromquist dove today into the numbers on the positive rate in Arkansas for COVID-19 testing. It’s a subject on which we’ve previously said Governor Hutchinson has been misleading and understating the dangers in mandating resumption of in-classroom school everywhere in Arkansas.

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The CDC has said a positivity rate above 5 percent is a problem sign and might be a marker against reopening.

62 of 75 Arkansas counties exceed that rate, some dramatically. Half the counties are above 10 percent. The state’s cumulative positive rate is pushing 9 percent and it was over 11 percent in the most recent week. But Hutchinson so far has stuck fast to saying ALL schools, should open five days a week, with no exceptions for special local circumstances. He refuses to allow districts to go all-virtual, though he has no problem with virtual charter schools.  Kids butts will be in school desks (or on the football field), he has decreed.

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Medical experts think the risks are enormous. We are left to hope for a miracle.

With that as a backdrop, I share one of the many letters I get from school teachers. This one is from Ashley County (positive testing rate 19.8 percent and among the top 10 counties in new cases daily). It is a copy of a letter sent to the governor and education secretary:

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I am a secondary social studies teacher at Hamburg High School in Hamburg, Arkansas. I am also the parent of a twelve year old daughter, so I view the education system from both sides. In light of recent events I would like to share my thoughts on reopening with you.

In the past few months, Mrs. Tracey Streeter and Cecil Ray Cossey have worked tirelessly to put together a plan for our school district to reopen.  This plan consists of a hybrid schedule to allow for social distancing among staff and students and proper sanitization.  Myself and several other teachers support this hybrid system for numerous reasons. First being – my daughter and I live with my seventy year old mother. My mother has been diagnosed with early stage dementia and needs our care. My concern is that I have a high probability  of bringing COVID-19 home to my at risk mother. I genuinely believe that my school operating at full capacity will provide less opportunity to sanitize and socially distance which ultimately puts my family at a higher risk. Other staff members take care of their elderly parents as well and are highly likely to be casualties of this school year. I am very aware that my students are unlikely to pass away from the COVID virus, but they are highly likely to take it back to their at risk parents, grandparents, aunt/uncles, etc.
Second – my school’s hybrid plan also had a planning day built in on Monday. As an educator whose planning period is frequently taken up by leadership/team meetings and training, I am very concerned about that day being taken away.  Here is why – I will be doubling my job. I am now a digital and in person educator. I teach four different subjects, that require four different plans, materials, videos, etc. I teach two Advanced Placement classes, one Pre Advanced Placement class, and  one academic Economics class. The content of these classes is very in-depth and requires lots of reading and research.  I pride myself on engaging my students with fun, standard-focused, and  well thought out lessons.  Without my planning day I will undoubtedly be forced to work after school and on weekends to provide quality lessons for digital and in person students. My own child, who is dyslexic, requires  extra time on all of her assignments and studying for tests after school. Undoubtedly, my extra work load will give me less time to devote to my child. This is not a sacrifice I am willing to make.
As an educator, I am very aware of the value of a good education. I also believe in  the safety of my students, colleagues, and  family members. At this point, I believe their safety should be the utmost priority. Thank you so much for all you do for our great state.