Good evening parents, students, and teachers,
I have spent the day collaborating with fellow administrators in NWA and crafting a plan for the rest of the school year that is equitable, emphasizes continued learning, and takes into account the flexibility and empathy needed for our current extraordinary circumstances.
My first concern was calculating 4th quarter grades. Not all of our students have regular access to Internet nor do they all have similar home circumstances. Basing 4th quarter grades on 4th quarter assignments alone would be inherently unfair in this environment. Therefore, each student is guaranteed, at a minimum, the same grade they earned for 3rd quarter as their 4th quarter grade. Students can raise this grade by continuing to engage in 4th quarter assignments with their instructors. The 4th quarter grade will begin the same as the student's 3rd quarter grade and teachers will raise this grade according to frequency of engagement with lessons and demonstrated progress toward mastery of essential standards. Students who are happy with their third quarter grades should still be engaging with teachers and content. The skills being taught are essential to success in the next school year. We will continue to reach out to families of ALL students who are not regularly engaging with their instructors to make sure that they are safe and well and offer support, encouragement and alternative means of engagement as needed. Participation in classroom sessions and completion of assignments on a weekly basis will be used to determine attendance. Students who do not participate after multiple attempts to provide alternatives or encourage participation may be held back due to lack of attendance in accordance with the handbook policy. To be clear, your semester grade will be calculated as follows: (3rd quarter grade + adjusted 3rd quarter grade for fourth quarter)/2. Finals for Spring 2020 have been cancelled.
My second concern is for our seniors. They have been stripped of many of the traditional experiences of a senior year and a normal graduation. Many are also working full time jobs to support themselves or their families and attempting to fit in school around those hours. Therefore, each senior who believes they are in good standing should contact Mrs. Hurt for confirmation. Once confirmed by Mrs. Hurt, seniors can consider themselves finished for the school year. Seniors are, of course, welcome to continue to participate for the remainder of the school year and can better their semester grade and final GPA by doing so. Students enrolled in concurrent classes through NWACC, AP classes at Arkansas Arts Academy, and digital courses through APSRC (managed by Mrs. Lightbody) MUST complete those courses as directed by the governing institution in order to receive credit or a weighted grade.
My last concern of import is the emotional, mental and social health of our students and families. The situation we all face is without precedent and a constant weight on the minds of parents, students, and educators alike. Please know that you can reach out to me with concerns or needs. We are happy to help and know that student well-being and success is intimately tied to family life. We can connect families in need with resources and be a listening ear if you just need someone to talk to. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and you can call or text (479)877-8145. Mrs. Carpenter and myself are working on opportunities for students to engage in social/fun events with peers through technology and will be rolling those out next week. We also have been digesting your feedback and will be working as a team to come up with a unified and well-thought out plan for instructional expectations and communication that lessens stress, focuses on skills and concepts essential for success in the next level course, and is clearly communicated at the beginning of each week to help with planning and overburdened inboxes. You will receive an email from me Friday evening detailing what you can expect student workloads and teacher communication to look like moving forward.
A few of you have asked why we are continuing to ask students to engage in arts classes. Beyond being an arts school, I believe that there is no better time to engage in an artistic endeavor than when faced with uncertainty and difficult circumstances. Creative pursuits are unique in their ability to help us process what is going on around us and provide moments of calm introspection in otherwise chaotic surroundings. The arts also focus as a relief valve for many of our students and our staff. They are part of what makes our approach to education unique and successful.
If you have concerns or questions, please contact me. I hope you are all staying well and have reasonable levels of cabin fever. Thank you for choosing Arkansas Arts Academy and thank you for your patience in an incredible and ever-changing environment.
Best wishes and good health!