By Haley Hale
The Barton School District, located outside of Helena-West Helena in Phillips County, will have full in-person instruction and won’t offer a virtual learning option for the 2021-2022 school year.
Superintendent David Tollett said in-person students have shown more academic success this year, and those that returned for in-person school have “been a lot more successful since they’ve returned to campus.” About 80 students district-wide still remain virtual.
“We analyzed our students’ success both when they came on campus this year and the ones that were at home virtually,” Tollett said. “There was a huge disparity in that.”
At the beginning of the spring 2021 semester, virtual students had the opportunity to return to the classroom. Tollett estimated about 60 percent of them returned to in-person instruction. Barton School District was one of several public schools that didn’t have to shut down for a single day due to COVID-19-related issues.
“The board just decided for the sake and the education of the students that it would be better for everybody to return on campus,” Tollett said. Barton School District serves about 750 students.
He also said that vaccination rollout and the possibility of reaching herd immunity by June or July would make this a safe and better option for students academically. As of March 16, Phillips County has about 8.6 percent of its population fully vaccinated. It ranks 16th for the greatest number of fully vaccinated citizens in the entire state.