Arizona schools expected to make sincere effort to follow Ducey’s order

Mar 8, 2021, 4:55 AM | Updated: 12:42 pm

PHOENIX — Arizona public schools that don’t follow Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order to begin offering in-person classes would be breaking the law, but penalties for non-compliance are not clear.

The order, issued last week, mandates district and charter schools offer students in-person and virtual options by March 15 or upon their return from spring break while maintaining practices to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

In a document the Arizona Department of Education created for school leaders, it stated that “there are no punitive measures” attached to the governor’s order.

There is also no impact on the calculation of average daily membership, which determines state funding for schools, according to ADE.

“We expect school districts to make a sincere, good effort to follow the law,” C.J. Karamargin, the governor’s communications director, told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“But as an executive order, it does carry the weight of the law,” the department stated.

Dr. Lee Ann Aguilar-Lawlor, superintendent of the Cartwright School District, said that’s similar to what she’s hearing from attorneys.

“Our attorneys are saying that the order is very clear,” Aguilar-Lawlor said at a special governing board meeting Thursday night. “There’s really no wiggle room and that we have to comply.”

Her school district was among the few that planned to continue having students learning from home for the rest of the school year. But after the governor’s executive order was released, the district pivoted to comply.

It now plans to reopen schools for in-person learning on March 16. Virtual learning will still be offered to students who choose that option.

About 60% of Arizona schools were already offering some form of in-person learning before Ducey issued his executive order, and more were planning to do so as COVID-19 metrics decrease and vaccinations increase.

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