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Kathy Hoffman says hybrid-learning models will vary by district

(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

PHOENIX –With Maricopa County schools getting the green light to return to in-person learning, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said parents can expect varying hybrid-learning models from district to district.

“The definition of hybrid has not been clearly defined partly because there’s so many different innovative models that schools are using,” Hoffman told The Gaydos and Chad Show on 92.3 FM on Thursday.

On Thursday, Maricopa County met all three recommended coronavirus benchmarks of a decline in cases, hospital visits and positivity rate for schools to safely start in-person learning.

“Arizona’s COVID numbers have gotten to this point actually quicker than I was anticipating, which is amazing, and I think we need to continue to take these mitigation strategies seriously,” Hoffman said.

Schools in the state’s most-populous county can return to hybrid-learning, where some students are learning on campus and others are learning from home. The Arizona Department of Health Services has laid out guidelines for reopening schools that includes physical distancing, requiring masks and more.

How schools will tackle hybrid-learning will vary from district to district. Some schools may choose an alternating schedule, where students come to school for one full day and learn from home the other, or come to school for the morning or afternoon only.

Arizona is a local-controlled state, which means each district has the ability to determine their own calendars and schedules, including to what degree in-person or online learning is conducted.

“These decisions are made at the school board level, and that’s the way Arizona been established, the way our school system has been for years,” Hoffman said. “We don’t have the authority to tell districts what their calendar schedule look like.”

Schools were allowed to reopen for in-person learning on Aug. 17, and some districts, like Queen Creek Unified School District, did return to classrooms.

J.O. Combs Unified School District in San Tan Valley planned to begin in-class learning that week, but had to cancel after too many staffers said they wouldn’t be there.

Others, like the Phoenix Union High School District, made the call early on to not offer the in-person learning option until October to provide families more stability.

Hoffman warned that if a county does recede back into the substantial spread, schools could have to revert to online learning.

“We need to continue to take this seriously because we do not want to have another spike,” Hoffman said. “We want to keep our schools be open. We want our kids back in the classroom, and I am looking forward to the day when this will all be behind us.”

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