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As cases rise in AZ, parents weighing options before kids return to school

kids masks classroom school children
Posted at 3:16 PM, Jul 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-29 18:16:45-04

PHOENIX — Most parents have already made their decision for the 2021-2022 school year, but after hearing about the spread of the Delta variant and new CDC mask guidelines, some are wondering what other options there are.

Amanda Stewart's two daughters are back to in-person learning in the Chandler Unified School District, which started classes July 21.

She said she feels pretty good about her 9-year-old, as half her class is wearing masks and she knows to keep her mask on at all times.

But she's a little more worried about her 5-year-old Madison.

"I feel like I didn't have another option because she didn't do good online," she said.

Both girls though know to stay safe after seeing their parents get sick. Amanda and her husband are vaccinated and recently both got COVID.

"They would stand in our bedroom door and it breaks my heart, they would cry. And it killed me as a mom to not be able to hug them. It was really tough," said Stewart.

Stewart said while they were quarantining, they missed the deadline to switch the girls out of the district and into another digital academy they were considering.

"We were trying to keep our heads above water," she said.

Chandler Unified does offer an online academy, but parents can only make the switch at the end of the semester. Stewart said it didn't offer some of the options she wanted for her girls.

"Crossing my fingers that nothing happens," she said.

We spoke to another mom of three in Chandler who decided to pull her sons from the school district and enroll them in ASU Prep Digital, an online school for K-12.

"I never wanted to pull my kids from a public school," said Kris.

She said she felt like she had no choice due to the state law that prohibits mask mandates.

"There needed to be mitigation within the schools and we would've been more comfortable with a higher percentage of adults being vaccinated," said Kris.

So, what are your options this close to the start of a new school year?

"In Arizona, we have one of the greatest amounts of variety for school options. We have our traditional public system, which is phenomenal, we have our strong charter system, we have private schools and we also have homeschool as a terrific option," said Maricopa County Superintendent Steve Watson.

Watson said it's important to stay involved and get the latest from your district. But in Arizona, parents can enroll their kids in any school, even if it's outside of your district.

For in-person learning, schools have open enrollment, so you can decide to switch schools at any point.

"And that's not to be taken lightly, it's research and study and asking questions and talking to parents," said Watson.

Here are the options in our 5 biggest school districts:

Chandler Unified School District - Started July 21

Mesa Public Schools - Starts August 3

  • Launched Mesa Virtual Campus [mpsaz.org] (K-12), which is synchronous, teacher-led remote learning. MPS also has the Mesa Digital Learning Program [mdlp.org] (4-12), which is asynchronous, self-paced online learning.
  • Returning parents were given the option of enrolling in Mesa Virtual Campus earlier this year. Parents can also request a spot in Mesa Virtual Campus on the school website prior to the start of school, August 3. Students can enroll in Mesa Digital Learning Program at any point.

Gilbert Public Schools - Starts August 4

Deer Valley Unified School District - Starts August 2

  • Launched Aspire, Deer Valley's K-12 Online Academy. Aspire is "synchronous" for K-6 and semi-synchronous for middle school. That means a teacher is on with the kids for much of the learning day. Teachers will teach in both whole group and small group settings online. For high school students, they have an option to attend an academic learning lab, participate in electives like band, and play sports for their home high school. Specials classes (art, music, pe) will be offered along with gifted services to all grades.
  • Parents can enroll in either online or in-person right now and throughout the school year as long as space is available. While space is still available in many grades, district leaders say Aspire is filling up fast.

Peoria Unified School District

  • Offering eCampus Peoria Virtual School for K-12
  • The deadline to submit an application for full-time eCampus was June 1. According to the website, there are options if you want to switch your student from in-person to full-time online with eCampus. Find out more here.