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Arizona school closures may be especially hard on some students

(Getty Images/David Ramos)

PHOENIX — Schools in Arizona will remain closed for the rest of the school year in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus — and that has some education advocates worried.

President and CEO of Expect More Arizona Christine Thompson told KTAR News 92.3 FM that every student will be impacted by the school closures, but some more adversely than others.

“In particular, students in poverty, students who have English as a second language and students with disabilities are going to face some real challenges,” she said.

Thompson said she’s concerned these students will be farther behind compared to others when the next school year begins in the fall.

“That’s why it’s going to be really important for us to take a look and see how we can ramp up even more the services around supporting those students,” Thompson continued.

Arizona schools were initially closed starting March 16 and were supposed to reopen April 10.

On Monday, Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman announced in a joint statement that the state’s district and charter schools won’t reopen this school year. They said they were taking this step “to give parents and educators as much certainty as possible.”

Teachers will now have to offer students general education opportunities while schools are closed. Some teachers have already been doing this through online platforms, which Thompson said will be challenging for students who don’t have access to the internet or a computer.

“There were some Phoenix Union students just a couple of weeks ago when it was raining that were found out in front under a blanket trying to get internet access from the school so they could finish their school assignments,” she said.

Hoffman said during a press conference Monday the Arizona Department of Education is encouraging schools “to be as flexible and creative as possible to meet all of our students’ needs.” That includes sending take-home packets and using bus routes to deliver meals and homework.

“Our Department of Education is diligently working to comprehensively address the obstacles associated with distance and digital learning,” Hoffman said. “We are working with other state agencies to increase access to Wi-Fi and hotspots as well as broadband in our rural communities.”

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

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