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Mesa Public Schools taking phased learning approach to ensure safety

(Pixabay Photo)

PHOENIX — Arizona’s largest school district has decided on a multi-phased approach to get students back into the classroom for the upcoming school year.

Mesa Public Schools, which serves about 62,000 students, approved its plan dubbed “Safe, Strong, Ready” during a governing board meeting Tuesday night. It comes in several phases.

The school year will start out August 4 with remote learning for all students.

“They will be engaging in remote learning until it is safe to move into our next phase, which is modified in-person,” Dr. Andi Fourlis, the district’s superintendent, told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

During that phase, students will alternate between in-person learning and remote learning throughout the week. Students will be assigned to an “A” or “B” schedule based on their last name and attend school on alternating days.

This will allow schools to avoid having large classroom sizes and be able to implement physical distancing.

All students who want to attend classes in person will be able to do so in the last phase.

There is no timeline for when each phase will be implemented. Instead, Fourlis explained the district will every week evaluate the available COVID-19 data and guidance from health experts to see if it’s safe to have students on campus.

“I have not yet found research that puts a date on safety, so we are staying away from announcing any specific date,” she said. “We believe that public health data will dictate the date, not the date dictating public health.”

Fourlis added the district will give a two-week notice before it transitions from one phase to the next “so that our departments, our schools and our families can make the necessary plans.”

“It wouldn’t be something like what we’ve experienced in our own community of locking down the state of Arizona and then opening it up and locking it down again and giving a 24-hour notice,” she said.

All students will have the option to do full remote learning throughout all the phases, and they will be provided laptops. Parents may also request training on how to use the online learning platforms so they can support their students.

Recognizing that some students will be facing mental health issues due to the coronavirus, the district will embed social-emotional learning lessons in the curriculum.

It will also provide packaged lunch and breakfast for students or their family members to pick up when they’re doing remote learning.

As for support staff whose jobs depend on students being on campus, they will be assigned to other areas during remote learning. That may include distributing laptops to students.

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