PHOENIX — Arizona students will have to switch to online or alternative learning for the rest of the academic year after Gov. Doug Ducey and schools chief Kathy Hoffman said Monday that schools will not reopen this year.
State health officials said there are now 1,157 known coronavirus cases and 20 deaths.
Ducey and Hoffman said the decision to keep schools closed is a response to new federal guidance to maintain social distancing practices through at least the end of April. Health authorities recommend people avoid congregating in large groups and maintain at least six feet for separation from others to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“Today’s announcement is intended to give parents and educators as much certainty as possible so they can plan and make decisions,” Ducey and Hoffman said in a statement released by the governor’s office.
The order applies to public and charter schools. Private schools must remain closed through April 30, and administrators can decide what to do after that.
Following the announcement, the Arizona Interscholastic Association confirmed this meant all spring sports have been canceled through the remainder of the season, including playoffs.
Maricopa Unified School District held a special governing board meeting on Wednesday to pass a resolution granting Superintendent Tracey Lopeman the authority to make certain decisions during the closures. These include payroll for district staff, extended closures beyond what the state has ordered, gearing curriculum to meet state standards and more without the need to call another special board meeting.
With the schools closed, MUSD is implementing a “Distance Learning Plan” that includes a combination of online learning and physical materials that students can work on from home. That curriculum is expected to begin on Wednesday.
Meal distribution will also carry on, and MUSD will continue to provide breakfast and lunch to children 18 and under Monday through Friday.
On that day, high school seniors will be able to check out laptops so they can finish the course work they need to graduate. K-8 students will receive hard-copy work packets from teachers at a time designated by the individual schools. Non-senior high school students will also receive packets along with access to Google Classroom.
Teachers are expected to be available to students and parents during regular school hours via email or video conference.
MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman issued a statement following Ducey’s decision to close schools.
“We know our students and staff look forward to the excitement that the end of the school year brings and this is not the outcome we wanted,” Lopeman wrote. “However, the health and safety of our students and staff members is our first priority. The ramifications of this decision are complex. We are abiding by the federal and state legislation associated with the effects the pandemic has on our community and will continue to act in the best interest of our students and staff.”