TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - District leaders across Arizona will make the decision on when it is safe for students to return to schools as we continue to track coronavirus cases in the state.
Governor Doug Ducey announced the “Arizona: Open for Learning” plan Thursday.
While learning will look different this year, the governor said the focus should be on ensuring students have a successful academic year. Districts are required to provide 180 days of instruction or equivalent hours, whether a family chooses to do so in person or via distance learning.
“We are going to have a safe and successful school year in the state of Arizona with flexibility, ample resources, and there will be hybrid options available,” said Gov. Ducey.
The plan gives school districts flexibility, but leaders will still need to provide an onsite learning option on August 17 to qualify for enhanced funding from an announced $370 million in grant dollars, from the CARES Act.
After demands from local leaders, teachers, education advocates and more, the governor announced districts will still be required to offer an onsite learning option. Arizona Superintendent of Instruction Kathy Hoffman said that could be at one school or in a partnership with a community organization, like the Boys & Girls Club.
“So there will continue to be services starting at that time, but in terms of ... we are not setting a statewide date for which school will start,” said Gov. Ducey.
As part of the plan, Arizona Department of Health Services will develop and release public health benchmarks for the safe return of in-person, teacher-led classroom instruction. Local school leaders will make the determination on when to physically open for regular classes.
“Give those flexibility and assurances so that our schools are empowered to go for learning to start, which is what we want,” said Supt. Hoffman. “We want them to start connecting with our kids across the state.”
The governor announced all schools will develop face covering policies to protect students and staff. Exceptions will be made for students when they can socially distance, are outside in playground settings with distancing, breaks for students to take their masks off in a safe environment, and other exceptions outlined in CDC guidelines.
While many students have been home for the last few months, many asked Dr. Christ is there is a concern of a quick spread of COVID-19 in returning to the classroom.
“County health departments are always working with their schools in influenza season, when there are outbreaks of disease. There will be guidelines around that,” said Dr. Christ.
Dr. Christ said the state’s public health benchmarks will be based off guidance from the CDC, plans and success in other states and guidance from the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
View the “Arizona: Open for Learning” plan here.