Cartwright, Alhambra districts in Phoenix announce reopening plans for next school year

Posted at 4:36 PM, May 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-03 11:45:56-04

PHOENIX — As parents, students and teachers await guidance on how the next school year will look, at least two Valley school districts are planning to reopen with four-day school weeks.

The decisions come in light of new guidelines districts are now developing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state is set to release its guidance for reopening schools on Monday, but in the Cartwright and Alhambra school districts, officials have already decided to reopen with four day weeks for students.

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Both school districts formed task forces to look into different scenarios to keep staff and families safe. In the Cartwright Elementary School District serving the Maryvale area, spokeswoman Veronica Sanchez said they made the decision after sending out a survey to parents, who overwhelmingly supported the four-day school week idea.

"We don't shut parents out. We include them in the education journey. Our motto is one team 'Una Familia,' and we mean it," said Veronica Sanchez, the district's Director of Communications and Community Engagement.

"We were not about to go down this road without parental input and parental engagement and outreach," she added.

District Superintendent Dr. LeeAnn Aguilar-Lawlor explained that students would attend classes on campus from Monday to Thursday. On Friday, crews would be hard at work deep cleaning and disinfecting all the buildings, buses, and common areas.

The Rebound Arizona wanted to know what this would mean for families who had to work and could not stay home to babysit their children on a Friday.

"We don't want to put a burden on anyone so we are going to open up school age child care for any of our families that don't have babysitting and need to go to work," said Dr. Aguilar-Lawlor.

ABC15 wanted to know if this child care came with a cost. The district spokeswoman said while they were still hammering out the details options for low cost and free daycare were on the table for discussion. A family's financial situation would definitely be taken into account.

The district is also creating a new position for a "Director of Educational Technology and Distance Teaching and Learning". Dr. Aguilar-Lawlor said the COVID-19 pandemic forced every school that was not set up to be an online school, to switch to that model.

They learned many families in their district did not have access to the internet or the proper equipment.

The district was able to scramble and get equipment for families in need.

The Cartwright Elementary school district has created a back up plan B and plan C in case the pandemic spikes again, leading to more social distancing measures that need to be enforced.

The plan B could entail some students returning while others connect online with a teacher. Plan C would be similar to what the community saw with the stay-at-home orders, with everyone attending classes online.

Dr. Aguilar-Lawlor said the district would follow all CDC guidelines when re-opening their schools.

"What I've said is I can't control what anybody does outside the school district. Everyone has their own ideas of how to keep themselves safe or not, and how they're going to live their lives, but once they enter school district everyone is going to follow the guidelines for the CDC. That's what we owe our staff and that's what we owe our families," she added.

The Rebound Arizona team has also confirmed that the neighboring Alhambra School District will follow a four-day school week, although they have adopted what they are calling a "2-1-2" model.

A district spokeswoman tells ABC15 that means students and staff will be at school on Monday and Tuesday, they will learn from home on Wednesday, and be back at school on Thursday and Friday. Deep cleaning of all campuses would take place on Wednesday and the weekends.