CASA GRANDE — A new executive order from Gov. Doug Ducey pushing back the date that schools can reopen to students has local schools altering their plans.
The Casa Grande Union High School District is working on its reopening plan. Superintendent Steve Bebee said he hopes to present a final reopening plan to the district Governing Board at its next regular meeting on July 7.
Bebee said he expected that the district will probably start the school year in a virtual format on Aug. 10. Ducey’s order prevents schools from opening their doors to students before Aug. 17. It doesn’t prevent schools from starting the school year using virtual learning and then transitioning to in-person learning, he said.
Bebee suggested to the CGUHS Governing Board at a special board meeting on June 23 that the district should look at a hybrid learning model for the new school year.
Under that model, students in each grade at each school would be divided into two groups. Each group would attend school virtually two days a week and in-person two days a week. The groups would switch off on which days they would attend school in-person. Group A might attend on Mondays and Thursdays, while Group B would attend on Tuesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays would be reserved for deep-cleaning the schools; staff and teacher meetings; and class time for students who needed remedial help.
The proposed plan also included having the district apply for an Arizona Online Instruction Program certification to allow it to set up its own online charter school for parents or students who did not want or could not return to school in-person even after Ducey’s Aug. 17 in-person start date passed.
At a special meeting on Wednesday, some board members and Bebee said they had received a number of emails and phone calls from a group of teachers who were concerned about or objected to the length of the school day under the proposed hybrid plan.
Under the proposed plan, the school day would have to be lengthened in order to meet the state requirement of 720 instructional hours for students and to allow the district to shorten the school week for students to four days, Bebee said.
He told the board after looking at the proposed school year calendar and the draft bell schedule for the hybrid model, it would be easy to add Wednesdays back into the schedule for students and reduce the school day back to its original hours.
Bebee said staff was also working on how the district would meet the needs of special education students, making sure a cleaning and disinfecting schedule was in place for each school and that each school had the necessary equipment such as touchless paper towel dispensers and hand sanitizer stations.
Bebee said once the plan has been finalized and approved by the board, the district will reach out to parents via email, phone calls, letters and social media to alert them to the decision and how the school year will progress. He hopes to have that information out to parents next week.
ASU Preparatory Academy is also working on a plan to accommodate the Aug. 17 in-person start date, Media Relations Officer Meenah Rincon stated in an email.
“We have no concerns about the quality of education and readiness levels at our ASU Prep schools. Our plan remains the same — to continue to build new models of success, implement best practices, execute with fidelity and provide quality instructional models parents have come to expect from ASU Prep. We will utilize the additional time to plan increased training for teachers and staff, as well as build strong master schedules to support parent instructional models,” Anna Battle, head of schools for ASU Preparatory Academy, stated in a press release.
The organization’s Casa Grande campus was looking at four possible options for parents, which included: attending all classes in-person, a hybrid of online and in-person classes, attending ASU Prep’s online academy or attending the Casa Grande campus through an online livestream of classes.
The Casa Grande Elementary School District was already planning to start the school year on Aug. 13. The district is now considering pushing that start date until Aug. 17.
Grande Innovation Academy will start school in a virtual format on Aug. 3, said Patty Messer, the school’s executive director. Once the Aug. 17 deadline passes, some students will return to the school for in-person learning. Some parents and students have already decided to continue to do virtual learning in the new school year.