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May 18, 2020

Through Preparation and Adaptation, Arkansas School Districts Delivered During the Pandemic

Lessons and plans from Cedarville, Dumas, Lakeside, and Nettleton School Districts

On March 28, two days before Arkansas public school students were set to return from spring break and continue their education distantly as mandated by the governor, an EF-3 tornado ripped through Jonesboro. All lives were spared, fortunately. There was considerable damage but not to any of the local Nettleton School District’s facilities. Nevertheless, the tornado did a number on a couple dozen homes in the district, completely destroying some. COVID-19 school closings had turned living rooms into learning spaces, and now there were Nettleton students who did not have a place to do their classwork, school or home.

“When the tornado hit, there were families who lost everything,” said Nettleton School District Superintendent James Dunivan. “I know every family that was affected and every student.” The district has been in touch with each, Dunivan said, and once the families’ more immediate needs were taken care of, students were given the resources to catch up on work and continue their studies.

During the pandemic shutdowns, public schools throughout Arkansas had to cater to students on a more personal level to ensure all were being educated and that the food insecure were being fed. With schools closed and the normal supply lines to kids severed, district leaders have adopted the logistical savvy of generals to reach their students. And, like in Dunivan’s case after the tornado, sometimes this required deploying reinforcements on a household-by-household basis.

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