MESA, AZ — Keeping schools safe during a pandemic is a daunting task. Even more so when you are the largest district in Arizona.
Mesa Public Schools, opening their doors only to ABC15's Danielle Lerner, showing some of what students and staff there can expect when they're finally able to return.
Hundreds of thousands of items of personal protective equipment, or PPE, are now a constant in the Mesa Public Schools Distribution Facility.
"We've been ordering all summer in anticipation of return to in-person and we continue to have supplies come in," said Associate Superintendent Holly Williams.
Most items are easy to recognize, others were ordered with more specialized scenarios in mind. Still, all are meant to protect more than 70,000 students and staff.
As of now, they will only return to campus when it's "deemed safe."
"We want to make sure everyone feels confident coming back," said Williams.
PPE items are shipped out daily to more than 80 schools throughout the district.
At Franklin at Brimhall Elementary School, the empty hallways are the biggest sign of the pandemic for Principal Jeffrey Abrams, more so than the plexiglass barriers, distancing markers, hand sanitizing stations and safety posters that now dot walls and classrooms.
"Our goal is to keep our students physically distanced when at all possible," said Abrams.
The district's next phase is modified in-person learning, where students alternate days on campus. So while 20-24 desks may be in a classroom, only about half will be used by certain students on certain days. Masks are required, no supplies will be shared and there are no gathering or group work spaces.
"Right now we're going to do the best we can, with where we are to make these kids feel comfortable and safe as they're in their learning environment," said Abrams. "Just trying to find that balance and doing what's right."