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District receives $11K grant for career and tech education

The Arkansas Department of Education announced that the Melbourne School District will receive a grant for $11,453.48 to further work-based learning. The funding is part of $2.5 million in Career and Technical Education State Start-up Grants. Of that amount, the ADE Office of Computer Science Education is providing $144,000 to CTE to fund five additional applications that have a computer science focus. The goal of the 72 grants is to assist with the development of new CTE programs of study.

“Each year the Division of Career and Technical Education receives state funds to assist schools with purchasing the appropriate industry standard equipment needed to start a CTE program of study,” Ross White, the director of ADE’s Division of Career and Technical Education, said. “CTE programs provide students invaluable hands-on experiences to prepare students for their future careers. The grant funds provide a financial boost that schools need to start new programs that will meet business and industry needs in the future. I am excited about this year’s recipients and look forward to seeing the exceptional programs that will be implemented as a result.”

The start-up grants cover 85 percent of the costs associated with a new program, with the school district committing to cover the remaining 15 percent.

“Since 2015, our office has been committed to supporting Arkansas students, teachers, and schools as they implement Governor Hutchinson’s vision for computer science and computing education,” Anthony Owen, the state director of Computer Science Education, said. “This vision has always focused on facilitating a relevant computer science education experience for all Arkansas students, and we believe that a career-focused experience is an essential component of quality learning opportunities. With this in mind, we are happy to provide DCTE with more than $144,000 in computer science initiative funding, as this will allow the division to provide additional, career-focused grants to schools around the state.”

Batesville Charter High School junior Daniel Latus, left, dedicated his final Eagle Scout project of placing a flag pole at the Batesville Community and Aquatic Center in honor of his late father, George Latus.

Sen. James Sturch wrote: “I was able to spend the first week of the new year supporting some outstanding young people. Daniel Latus officially finished his Eagle Scout project on Saturday by raising the flag on the Batesville Community Center flagpole built in memory of his dad.”

ACHI: 97% of School Districts Have High COVID-19 Infection Rates

A record 226 Arkansas public school districts, or 97 percent of the state’s 234 contiguous school districts, have COVID-19 infection rates of 50 or more new known infections per 10,000 district residents over a 14-day period, the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement said Monday, citing its analysis of Arkansas Department of Health data current as of Saturday.

ACHI made a special update to the COVID-19 dashboard on its website Monday in response to the accelerated spread of the virus. ACHI also added a new color, pink, to the maps on the dashboard, available at, to signify an infection rate of 200 or more new known infections per 10,000 district residents over the past 14 days, or at least 2 percent of the district’s population. In some districts, more than 4 percent of residents in the local community are known to be infected.

In the face of the immediate threat posed by the explosion of the omicron variant across Arkansas communities, ACHI calls for the following short-term actions:

implementation of masking requirements for all staff and students in all schools across the state;

virtual instruction for schools in the purple and pink zones;

sheltering in place for seniors, families with unvaccinated children, and families with members who are immunocompromised or at risk because of health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes or cancer; and suspension of public interactions or implementation of virtual options where possible on the part of municipalities, businesses and houses of worship.

“Because of the highly infectious omicron variant, COVID-19 is raging uncontrolled across our state,” said ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson. “Unfortunately, we need to endure some temporary disruptions in our daily lives so we can stop the virus’ spread.”

The previous record for school districts with 14-day COVID-19 infection rates of 50 or more new known infections per 10,000 district residents was 201, which was reached last January and again in August.

Of the 226 districts with 14-day infection rates of 50 or more new known infections per 10,000 residents, 61 districts have 50 to 99 new known infections per 10,000 residents (red on ACHI’s map); 110 districts have 100 to 199 new known infections per 10,000 residents (purple); and 55 districts have 200 or more new known infections per 10,000 residents (pink).

The infection rates reported by ACHI are based on infections among community residents living within the geographical boundaries of each school district and not only on cases among school employees and students.

Known infections include confirmed and probable cases. Probable cases are based on verbal reporting and antigen test results, as identified by the Department of Health. Reported rates do not include results from at-home testing, thus the true level of infections is likely higher than that reported.

Infection rates and counts are not reported for districts with fewer than five reported infections to reduce the possibility of identifying individuals. School district counts do not include infections among incarcerated populations, in nursing homes, or in human development centers.

ACHI also updated the maps and tables on its website displaying vaccination rates by public school district, community, and ZIP code, using Department of Health data current as of Saturday. Twenty-three school districts have achieved vaccination rates of at least 50 percent of district residents, one of them over 60 percent: Bentonville, at 61 percent.

Midland School District cancels classes for rest of week

Dr. Bruce Bryant, superintendent of Midland School District, sent an email cancelling classes for the remainder of the week. The email reads:

“I am officially canceling school for the remainder of the week due to increased positive cases of COVID. We are at 20%+ absentees, and I anticipate that increasing. Teachers do not report for work tomorrow. However, you may be asked to report for on campus work later in the week.

Maintenance workers, custodians, cafeteria workers, and secretaries will report for work. Bus drivers should see that their buses are properly sanitized for use again next week.”

Entry, visitation limited at VA hospital amidst surge

Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System is closing the south entrance to John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital Jan. 11, ahead of the planned construction closure in March due to the current surge in COVID-19 positives and cases pending results.

McClellan, like other hospitals in Arkansas, is experiencing a marked increase in in-patient positives, staff illnesses, and investigations into illnesses that may be COVID. Staff resources throughout the hospital are being dedicated to bringing the surge under control and to Veteran care. Early closure of the south entrance will free up needed staff and ensure Veteran safety.

The new main entrance project at McClellan is underway with some solar panels being relocated to CAHVS’ Fort Roots campus. A nine-month closure of the south entrance was slated to begin March 1 but will now start tomorrow. The entrance will remain open to emergency egress until construction begins in March.

CAVHS recently took proactive measures to protect Veterans and staff by returning to our ELEVATED status visitation policy. Entry to facilities is limited to Veterans with scheduled appointments, procedures or other essential business that cannot take place by any other means, including virtually.

One caregiver over the age of 18 will be allowed to accompany the Veteran, if needed, and the caregiver will be directed to designated waiting areas. Social distancing is being observed throughout our facilities.

Service animals may accompany Veterans to outpatient appointments and must always remain under the care and control of the Veteran/caregiver.

Inpatients will be allowed one visitor over the age of 18 in the facility at a time. One to two visitor(s) over the age of 18 may be allowed into the Palliative Care Unit at a time.

Veterans and visitors to CAVHS facilities must be masked at all times, an FDA-approved mask will be provided if necessary.

CAVHS COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics are open in Little Rock and North Little Rock facilities. Research shows that COVID-19 vaccines and boosters offer good protection against the variant, and widespread vaccination can prevent unnecessary deaths and hospitalizations. We encourage all unvaccinated Veterans and their family member to get the vaccine either at a community vaccination clinic or the VA.