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COVID challenges may lead to summer school for some Arizona students

(AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

PHOENIX — Due to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic and at-home learning, summer school could be coming up for some Arizona students.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman believes it’s still too early to know how many students will actually need summer school to catch up.

“To truly know how our students are doing academically is for them to do testing,” Hoffman said during a press conference last week. “We’re working through what that will look like and, of course, trying to do that in as safe a way possible.”

Students are scheduled to take a revamped version of the state standardized test, known as AZMerit2, beginning in April. They missed testing last year as schools across the state were closed in March due to rising COVID-19 numbers.

But there is one major issue with the AZMerit2 test this year.

“Even though the test is computer-based, it is not an online test,” Hoffman said. “It’s not as easy as flipping a switch to make these tests available in the home.”

That may create challenges for students who are doing virtual learning.

About 60% of public schools across Arizona are already offering some form of in-person learning. Some have announced they are reopening just in time for the AZMerit2 test, while others are remaining fully online for the rest of the school year.

Hoffman said her department is trying to figure out how standardized testing will look for those students who remain learning from home this school year.

Meanwhile, Gov. Doug Ducey is already bracing for many students needing summer school this year. He’s asking for funding this budget year, which begins July 1, to send about half of Arizona’s K-12 students to summer schools.

Some school districts across the country are looking at making summer school mandatory to help students who’ve fallen behind because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Virginia’s governor has suggested extending school into the summer.

It’s unclear how summer school will look in Arizona and whether it’ll be mandatory for some students. Those decisions will likely be made at the local level by school districts and charter schools.

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