2nd Annual Education Month to Focus on Community Schools Model, Digital Equity, Literacy

Seal of Little Rock
Friday, Sep 04, 2020

Media Release

City of Little Rock Public Relations (501) 371-4421

Stephanie Jackson | (c) 501 539 3960 | (e) sbjackson@littlerock.gov

On Thursday, Sept. 3, Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. announced several initiatives to increase student access to broadband and digital literacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in partnership with key educational partners. September, also known as Education Month, will see the announcement of Little Rock’s first four community schools, the launch of the supplemental elementary-level literacy program Lexia in the Little Rock School District, and a virtual Education Roundtable focused on students from birth through career. You may watch the full press conference here.

Joined by Little Rock’s Chief Education Officer Dr. Jay Barth, Little Rock School District (LRSD) Superintendent Michael Poore, Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD) Charles McNulty, and Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) Executive Director Nate Coulter, Mayor Scott announced Little Rock will purchase more than 1,000 hotspots to supplement both districts’ expansion of broadband access. The hotspots will be provided to students to access the internet at home, ensuring they can participate during virtual learning periods. In addition, CALS plans to pilot  a hotspot checkout program at its branches.  In addition, the City will create broadband access for learners in City facilities such as community centers and seek reimbursement from the state CARES Act allocation for cities to cover the projects’ initial costs.

“Despite the availability of broadband service across almost all of the city, there is ongoing income-based digital inequity in Little Rock,” Mayor Scott said Thursday. “The digital divide is not just a rural issue in our state. It is also an urban issue, one that has been magnified during the coronavirus pandemic. Through partnerships with both LRSD and PCSSD, we have created a short-term response to get students connected at home.”

“We are appreciative of Mayor Scott’s initiative to help bridge the digital divide, Supt. Poore stated. “Delivering universal access to connected devices, and providing digital support helps ensure that our students have the tools to succeed in the classroom and beyond. I love that the City of Little Rock, LRSD, and PCSSD all are targeting efforts toward students and families who need this bridge of support to have success in our classrooms.“

“The last six months have taught us a lot about hope, but also the opportunity gaps and infrastructure needs,” Supt. McNulty said. “We’re proud to stand with the City of Little Rock to ensure that we get the right devices to students wherever they are.”

The City also announced a partnership with Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub to provide virtual classes on computer usage and software to parents. A hotline number for parents to call will be announced at a later date.

“Through this grant, we will empower families to take full advantage of the tremendous tools being made available by the Little Rock School District,” said Dr. Chris Jones, Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub director. “Many parents are frustrated and unsure of how to assist their students, and we’re ready to ease the angst associated with unfamiliar technology.”

“Digital equity includes ensuring that all our residents have access to connectivity, devices, and digital literacy,” Dr. Barth said. “Through these partnerships, we are doing a good job to meet the needs of our students during this extraordinary school year. We will continue the work to be sure all residents of Little Rock have ongoing access to a service that is as fundamental as water or electricity to life in the 21st century.” 

Remaining Education Month initiatives include announcement of the City’s first community schools within the LRSD, and on September 29th Mayor Scott will host the second Education Roundtable. This virtual event will include findings from a series of committees created at last fall’s Roundtable and conclude with a presentation on how to institutionalize the City’s work on behalf of students from birth through career.

“It bears repeating that our city’s future is dependent on how well we train and prepare the next generation and continue to invest in our workforce,” Scott said. “I’m eager to hear findings and recommendations from our partners who participated in our 2019 Roundtable. We must develop the innovative solutions today to ensure our city’s continued growth.”