Here’s what Arizona schools are required to do starting Monday
PHOENIX — Most Arizona schools are weeks away from reopening for in-person instruction, but some students will return to campus Monday for state-mandated support services.
An executive order by Gov. Doug Ducey requires school districts and charter schools to provide on-site support services for students who need a place to go or have specific needs.
“This is meant to be more like a safety net for those students who truly need on-campus, onsite services,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said during a webinar last week.
Hoffman said the safest place for students to learn is still at home, as none of the 15 counties in Arizona meet all three recommended coronavirus benchmarks for safe reopening of schools.
“However, there may be some students who truly need that onsite service at this time,” she said.
That includes specialized services for students with disabilities who, as determined by individualized education program teams, require in-person support and instruction.
The on-site services can also include meals, supervision, tutoring, counseling and support for students participating in distance learning.
Not all schools will provide these services. School districts and charter schools with multiple facilities may choose in which schools and buildings will provide the services. They can also partner with community-based organizations, such
as the YMCA or the Boys and Girls Club.
When providing the services, schools must implement mitigation strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That includes physical distancing and requiring face coverings for all adults and students over the age of 5.
If there’s a COVID-19 outbreak in their area, schools can apply for a waiver that would exempt them from providing the onsite services.
Hoffman said the services are intended but not limited for students with disabilities, students who don’t have adequate technology at home, children of first responders and children in foster care.
Students needing a safe place to go to participate in online learning during school hours can also access on-site services.
“However, we have also made sure to make clear that just because a student falls into one of these categories, they don’t have to go back on campus,” she said.
Hoffman added the rollout of the onsite services will vary by district and charter school.
During a webinar Thursday, several school district leaders shared how they plan to provide the onsite services.
Kristi Wilson, superintendent of the Buckeye Elementary School District, said her district will have a 10:1 student-to-staff ratio on all sites, create cohort groups and require face coverings. Students are either invited to attend or must register, and parents are asked to sign a COVID-19 waiver.
“We also took an extra step in really letting parents know what that day looks like for their child,” Wilson said. “So if a student shows up from the beginning of the day to the end of the day, what does that experience look like for the child and what is the expectation.”
Phoenix Union High School District Superintendent Chad Gestson said his district is providing onsite services through a phased-in approach.
It focuses on providing on-site services to students with the highest need. That includes youth with special needs, homeless students, students in foster care, English language learners and refugee students.
“We’re doing that because we don’t have unlimited staff,” Gestson said. “We have to keep safe those who are back on campus and so we are creating a list and will only bring students back that at this point need it and that we have the capacity for.”
He added school employees who typically don’t engage in teaching and learning, including social workers, nurses, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers will help supervise the students.