Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issues executive order allowing school districts and charter schools to reopen on-site learning at their own discretion

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ajalfaro (Flickr)

Arizona schools will reopen at their own pace this fall

Ole Olafson, Reporter

On July 23, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued Executive Order 2020-51, titled “Arizona:  Open for Learning”, effectively giving public school districts and charter schools autonomy to decide whether they can safely return to in-person classes or begin their school year using distance learning, depending on their individual public health situation as it relates to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The order states that the Arizona Department of Health Services “shall develop public health benchmarks for the safe return of in-person, teacher-led classroom instruction.”  The recommendations are to be made available by Friday and each school district or charter school will base their decision as to when to resume in-person classes based on guidance from county health officials, community needs and available resources.

Furthermore, the order stipulates that schools submit their distance-learning plans to either the Ariz. Dept. of Education or the Ariz. State Board for Charter Schools, depending their school designation.  It urges schools to use synchronous learning, where a teacher instructs students online in real-time and assures schools that time spent providing distance learning will count toward their minimum instructional days.  Schools who are compliant with this and Executive Order 2020-41 “2020-2021 School Year” (June 24), along with Executive Order 2020-44 “Protecting Public Health for Students and Teachers” (June 29) will be eligible for grants from the Enrollment Stability Program to assist with funding shortfalls.

It goes on to require that schools provide on-site learning opportunities for kids that need a place to go during regular school hours but they may limit the number of students in order to allow for proper social distancing.  Schools can apply for a waiver if an outbreak of coronavirus occurs at a facility or a tribal sovereign nation issues a stay-at-home order that affects a school or district near a reservation.

Hayden-Winkelman School District Superintendent Jeff Gregorich spoke out against reopening schools in a Fox News article published today after the COVID-related death of a teacher in his district who was team teaching this summer in an attempt to become more familiar with online teaching tools for the fall.

“So many of my children, students go home to their multi-generation families in a close-knit community,” Gregorich said. “And I don’t see how it’s not going to be transmitted to their grandparents and throughout our community.”

Two other teachers from the same team were also infected, even though the teachers had reportedly been following all safety protocols.

According to an article published yesterday by azfamily.com, Jason Barry reports that some schools had already started their distance-learning programs on Monday, while other districts in Chandler, Mesa and Paradise Valley will begin their online classes later this week.

There appear to be no districts or schools planning to return to a strictly on-site learning program at this time.