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Mesa Public Schools plans to begin in-person learning Sept. 14

(Mesa Public Schools Photo)

PHOENIX — While some school districts and charter schools in Arizona already have students attending classes in person, the state’s largest school district is preparing to do the same.

Mesa Public Schools plans to transition to modified in-person learning on Sept. 14, but that’s only if the state’s recommended coronavirus benchmarks in Maricopa County, where the district is located, are met for hybrid learning to safely begin.

The Arizona Department of Health Services updates the benchmarks every Thursday.

“We anticipate that we are going to meet the benchmarks to move to hybrid learning this Thursday,” Andi Fourlis, the district’s superintendent, said during a governing board meeting Tuesday.

If the benchmarks are met, the district will spend the next two weeks transitioning to modified in-person learning, which means students will alternate the days they attend classes in person and online.

For example, some students may attend classes Mondays and Thursdays while others attend Tuesdays and Fridays. On the days that students are not attending classes in person, they will do online learning.

This is meant to help ensure fewer students are on campus and to allow for physical distancing.

“Those families that don’t feel that modified in-person learning is the right choice for them, they will have the choice to stay in a remote environment throughout this academic year,” Fourlis said.

A survey was sent to parents and staff Wednesday, asking them to choose between the modified in-personal learning option or to continue fully online.

Angie Shults, who teaches 7th and 8th grade English in Mesa Public Schools, said she’s “excited and concerned simultaneously” about the district’s move toward modified in-person learning.

She said she misses her students and feels online learning has been a challenge for many of them.

“They sometimes have a lot going on at home,” she said. “I can tell there are more distractions for them at home than maybe but they would have at school. That affects engagement.”

Shults added some students are reluctant to ask for help on assignments, and she worries about how that’s affecting the quality of their work.

“I do believe that the in-person teaching is probably more effective,” she said.

But she’s also concerned that if the district reopens schools too quickly and without first meeting the health benchmarks, students could get COVID-19 at school and spread it to others.

“I hope that we just do things in the right way so that we can get kids back to school but in a way that is safe for them and their families, as well as for teachers and our community,” Shults said.

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