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Parents, students afraid of the current Covid-19 situation, increasing number of students are enrolling for virtual learning in Pulaski County



Pulaski County, Arkansas – More and more students are deciding to enroll to virtual learning as the number of new Covid-19 cases is still pretty high on a daily basis.

Some school districts already implemented mask mandates in the schools, but the transmission of the virus among students is on the rise. Since last week, around 300 students tested positive on the virus and hundreds were sent in 10-day quarantine.

Uncertain of how the Covid-19 situation will be in the fall months, many school districts decided to offer students virtual learning. The Pulaski County Special School District is among those who have this option for students and since last week they are seeing some serious increase in enrollment for virtual learning.

According to the latest information provided by PCSSD, in the first week of the new school year the number of students requesting virtual learning has tripled and now the school districts is facing teachers shortage issues.

“I don’t think I had fully all-out committed or decided, I mean it was about a week before school started,” Heather Disarro who enrolled both of her children in PCSSD’s Driven Virtual Academy said.

She is one of those parents that decided last minute to enroll their children for the virtual learning despite her desire for in-person learning.

“It just felt like it was going to be a really good mash-up,” Disarro said.

The principal of the academy, Leslie Ireland, said that the number of students enrolling for virtual learning started to increase at the beginning of August and it’s probably tied to the Covid-19 condition in the state. According to her, as soon as parents realized that the recent wave will last longer than expected, they decided to enroll their children for the virtual learning.

“We went from a little less than 200 being enrolled to well over 500 asking to get in,” Ireland said.

Currently, there are 800 students enrolled while 50 more are on the waiting list. The increase in request is a result of the recent data showing more and more children infected with the virus and hospitalized despite the fact that most them wear masks in schools.

“Our major struggle right now is trying to ensure that we have enough certified teachers in place,” Ireland said.

When they initially planned the program, they used the common 1 teacher to 25 students ratio. However, they decided to increase the groups to 1 teacher per 40 students now in order to accommodate as many students as possible. According to her, the district is doing everything in their power to take as many students as possible while the Covid-19 situation is like this.

“We definitely want to listen to what [parent] needs are,” Ireland said.

Those on the waiting list will stay there until new teachers are found. If no new teachers are hired, everything will remain the same as of now. Ireland said they have reached out to universities and other employers to try and find interested teachers.

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