ELOY — Last week, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman released a “roadmap” for school districts to consider the best approach for their schools for the upcoming academic year.
The roadmap provided four scenarios from the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching:
- All students start the school year attending school in person.
- Some students start the school year attending in person while some are using distance learning.
- All students are using distance learning from the start of the year, with the option of returning to physical buildings when appropriate.
- Students are intermittently in person and using distance learning based on guidance from local and state health departments.
The Eloy Elementary School District held its monthly board meeting Monday morning at the Eloy Junior High gymnasium as many teachers anxiously awaited the board’s decision about re-opening.
The Governing Board approved the second scenario of having some students attend school in person. According to the roadmap provided by Hoffman, schools can consider that option if there are minimal to moderate cases of COVID-19 in the community.
“It’s because of our community,” EESD Superintendent Ruby James said. “We feel that we need to see our babies. We need to get back to the teacher-student interaction and see where they are and what their needs are. We cannot afford not to see them, so that’s why we went with scenario two with some modifications.”
James added that limited access to technology doesn’t make the last two scenarios possible for the school district and the first scenario is also not an option due to the large class sizes.
The roadmap suggests that the board should also have a contingency plan and must have a comprehensive communication plan, along with communicating screening and educational expectations to staff and families.
“We have created, and we have met the mandates for keeping students six feet apart,” James said. “All the desks are facing one direction in every classroom, we have moved out excessive furniture, like extra furniture, we have already removed that. The classrooms will accommodate 15 students per session, so that has been taken care of and they’ve all been sanitized and cleaned.”
Additionally, schools must have a plan for students with disabilities in which distance learning could be a possibility while also taking into consideration the student’s learning needs.
James mentioned that the district’s modification to the plan is splitting up the school day to reduce the number of students allowed at all three schools.
“We have an hour from when ‘A’ group is done to go and sanitize the entire classroom to be ready for ‘B’ group,” James said.
The district plans to release a schedule for both school groups once school staff has finished dividing up its student roster.
Board member Anna Ogle requested to check back in with school staff a few weeks after they have started to see if any additional changes need to be made.
As of right now, the EESD plans to begin school on July 20 and is sticking to the regular school calendar.
“We’re excited with caution; we’re cautiously excited,” James said. “We know that COVID-19 is very, very serious, and we’re taking it very serious. We’re going to put everything in place to make sure that the staff and students are healthy and safe.”