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Arizona Education Association calls for Ducey to implement statewide school reopening plan

Ducey Virus Outbreak Arizona
Posted at 9:18 PM, Aug 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-22 12:03:34-04

The Arizona Education Association has formally called on Governor Doug Ducey to create a statewide plan for reopening schools.

In a letter sent to the governor's office, the AEA is asking for five tenets to be put into a required Arizona school safety plan. Those requirements are as follows:

Mandate masks be worn statewide in schools and on buses until the end of the school year.

  • Require safety protocols for school districts regarding COVID-19 exposure notification plans for employees and students.
  • Cancel this year’s high-stakes standardized testing due to the disruptions related to COVID-19 rendering scores unreliable for the 2020-2021 school year.
  • Grant school districts flexibility toward meeting the requirement of 180 days of instruction due to impacts related to COVID-19.
  • Provide the additional funding necessary to ensure that when schools open to students, that schools can continue to provide safe and healthy learning environments needed for our students to excel.

"The August 17th deadline, a date you called aspirational, has passed, and our schools are still not safe to return to. It is time for you to act in the best interests of our children and their educators," wrote Joe Thomas, AEA President.

"We need to get all of the stakeholders together and decide what a statewide plan looks like. What are the health benchmarks we have to meet? What are the protective equipment, what is the disinfectants we need? How do we make sure our schools can be as safe as possible?"

In early August, the Arizona Department of Education released a "Roadmap to Reopening" plan that includes health benchmarks to meet before returning students to class, as well as health guidance and tips for maintaining a healthy environment within the classroom.

The state's "Roadmap to Reopening" is aimed to be used as a guideline to individual districts, whose governing boards ultimately make the final decision in returning to in-person education.

"It even provides an additional $370 million for schools this year, including more dollars per student to cover the additional cost of in-person instruction," said a spokesperson for the Governor's Office.

“We should have safety guidelines in place so that there isn’t this political pressure coming down on these governing board members," said Thomas.

Thomas is referring to J. O. Combs Unified School District and Queen Creek Unified School District. Queen Creek began in-person education on August 17. J. O. Combs was set to begin a hybrid of in-person and online learning on the same day. However, 109 teachers and staff in the district called out sick that week, forcing the district to cancel all classes for all schools for not only Monday, but Tuesday and Wednesday as well due to insufficient staffing.Despite a state plan for reopening schools for in-person learning available to districts, the AEA is asking for a plan that is a requirement, and not a guideline.