Ducey and Hoffman let Local Districts and Schools decide when They can fully Reopen but Questions Remain

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Photo from Times Union

At the Governor’s weekly press briefing regarding the Coronavirus, he and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman jointly revealed their plan for moving forward with the 2020/21 school year.

Photo from Governor’s Office.

Please click below to access details of the plan memorialized in the Governor’s Executive Order.

eo_2020-51_arizona_open_for_learning (1)

 

While acknowledging that “teaching and learning will happen no matter what education looks like,” both Ducey and Hoffman shared the goal of “providing rigorous instruction while ensuring health safety.”

Features of the Plan

  • There is no longer a hard August 17 opening date for in-person instruction.
  • Local school districts and charter schools have the decision-making authority to decide when full in-person instruction resumes on individual school sites.
  • Local school districts and charter schools do have to provide on-site instructional opportunities for students who need to be in school for safety, special education, and if parents have no choice but to put their child in school. So, hypothetically, a large district like Mesa could designate three geographic sites in its district for where the In-person activity takes place. Superintendent Hoffman mentioned that the Boys and Girls Club could offer some venues as well.
  • Public health benchmarks will be provided to schools and educators no later than August 7, 2020, that will serve as a guide as to whether it is safe to resume full in-person classroom instruction.
  • Students that attend a local district or school blended-hybrid learning or full online-distance learning will be fully funded in their Average Daily Membership (ADM) as if they fully attended in-person classroom instruction.
  • All teachers and staff will be fully paid.
  • Local schools have the power to decide to reclose their school if there is a COVID 19 outbreak.
  • CARES Act monies are available for schools to apply for full ADM funding and other needs like bridging the digital divide. (News flash: more funds, probably from the Feds, will be needed)

Following the briefing, Superintendent Hoffman made the details clearer, posting on social media.

“COVID-19 has challenged the education community. Today’s Executive Order issued by Governor Ducey gives our school communities more data, resources, and policies to support safe learning in the new school year, whether schools opt to provide in-person or distance learning.

✔️ By 8/7, the Arizona Department of Health Services will create reopening benchmarks based on public health data
✔️ Full funding for distance learning
✔️ Continuity of pay for all educators, including hourly staff
✔️ Face covering requirement

Additionally, while local schools set their academic calendars, Governor Ducey’s Executive Orders affect school calendars:

✔️ School facilities closed until 8/17
✔️ Schools can start distance learning before 8/17
✔️ Schools can continue distance learning after 8/17 as long as districts or charters provide an onsite learning option for at-risk students while enforcing physical distancing + safety protocols.”

Questions that remain to be answered

Despite the details offered at the briefing, questions remain to be answered. Some of them were asked at the press briefing. These questions include:

  • Are designated sites going to be ready by August 17 to provide safe venues and adequate staffing for students, who everyone concedes, probably need to be there?
  • Is there worry about a Coronavirus spike when everyone returns?
  • What is the screening process to determine which children should be allowed into these designated sites?
  • Could this delegating to local authorities create potential issues like the mask one a month ago where some areas adopt similar health and safety standards and others do not?
  • Private and religious schools are not beholden to these criteria. What health safety requirements will be expected of them?

Initial Reaction to the Ducey and Hoffman briefing.

 Before the briefing,  several Arizona Mayors (including Coral Evans, Kate Gallego, Regina Romero, and Anna Tovar) had sent a letter about half an hour before the briefing expressing their concerns and requested the Governor delay in-person instruction and rely on health data before reopening schools.

Please click on the letter below.

AZ Mayors Letter to Gov Ducey 7-23

Most of their concerns, albeit, like the mask issue, delegated to the local level, appear to have been addressed.

Arizona Senate and House Democrats each issued their initial reactions to the press briefing via Twitter.

 

Joe Thomas, the President of the Arizona Education Association, posted comments on Facebook.

Please click here to access it. 

One of the candidates for the Creighton School Board, Lindsey McCaleb, responding to a request for comment, initially noted:

“I greatly appreciate all of the hard work Superintendent Hoffman has been doing, as she has taken into consideration all of the data and concerns from education leaders and medical experts throughout the state the last few weeks.”

 “My take-aways from today that I would consider to be huge wins include: fully funding online learning, utilizing metrics-based data to determine in-person reopening rather than set dates, uninterrupted pay for educators, and additional funding for community resources that will help support our students and schools.”

 “I will be honest, however, in saying that the conference and order left many of us with more questions than answers. I have read the order itself, and I do not see specific language about requiring in-person options and what that entails, even though it was referenced during the conference. Hoffman referenced providing an open building or utilizing Boys & Girls Club, but that was the extent of specificity. Additionally, some districts delayed all instruction until August 17th, hoping to return in-person, but this new order states that learning must begin on the first day of a district’s traditional calendar, which those districts are now not prepared to do with such short notice. There needs to be additional clarity on the vague information that was shared today, both during the conference and in the written order.”

Moving Forward

The Governor advised families to check with their local districts and charter schools to see what the plans are for their schools.

Many districts have already been devising scenarios for in-person, blended-hybrid, and solely online instruction for the new school year.

Governor Ducey and Superintendent Hoffman should be commended for recognizing that local leaders and educators are best equipped to determine the optimal way to reopen schools.

Hopefully, today marks another step in getting all education stakeholders safely back to school.

Please see the full press briefing with Governor Ducey and Superintendent Hoffman below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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David Gordon
Living in Arizona since his family moved to Tempe from New York in 1982, David Gordon has three degrees from Arizona State University and the University of Phoenix in History, Political Science, and Secondary School Administration. A highly qualified Social Studies instructor and Certified School Principal, Mr. Gordon owned his own charter school, Grand Canyon College Preparatory Academy from 1997-2016. The school served students in grades 6-12 in the East Valley of Maricopa County. Many of the graduates of GCP earned college credit for free while still attending high school, some completing the first year of college before graduating. Among the speakers at the school's graduations were noted figures in Arizona Politics like Harry Mitchell, David Schweikert, Juan Mendes, Andrew Sherwood, and John Huppenthal. Mr. Gordon also participated in the revisions of the Arizona History and Social Studies standards. In January 2017, Mr. Gordon started the political blog Twenty-First Century Progressive Bull Moose. It has a global following and routinely comments on the political events of the day. Mr. Gordon also helps administer the Facebook page Living Blue in Arizona. He is also currently writing a series of Young Adult science fiction novels which incorporate the themes of time travel and its impact on history. Mr. Gordon is very happy to be asked to join the Blog for Arizona team and hopes to spread the progressive word to make Arizona a better place for everyone.

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