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State Board of Education weighs changes to help districts with online instruction next school year

Posted at 1:36 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 22:43:41-04

PHOENIX — As we work to find out if, and when, students will return to the classroom, the State Board of Education is considering some changes to make it easier for school districts to offer online instruction next school year.

Right now only 70 of the more than 200 public school districts in Arizona are authorized to offer online courses, or online schools. However, with so much still unknown, several districts have already shown interest in establishing new online programs or expanding what they already have.

"Districts are looking at their contingency plans and I think that they're trying to make a multitude of plans so that they know what to expect in any given circumstance," said Alicia Williams, executive director for the State Board of Education.

The current process looks like this:

-The application window goes from July or August, through the end of October
-The review must include an in-person or virtual demonstration
-Between January and March, the Board approves applications for the following school year

If approved, the process would change for this upcoming school year only:

-The application window would open May 19 and go through July 1
-The review may not include an in-person or virtual demonstration
-The Board will approve applications for the 2020-2021 school year during a special meeting in July or August

ABC15 reached out to the Department of Education to ask if this signals students will continue learning from home next school year. We received the following statement from department officials.

"The best place for learning for most students is in the classroom, but given the unpredictable public health situation, we must plan for all types of contingencies, including the need for remote learning options, and hybrid models that utilize in-person and virtual instruction that can work for all students."

The Board is expected to vote on the changes Monday. This only applies to public school districts as charter schools have to go through their own state board.