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Department of Education releases guidance for reopening Arizona schools

Students, school
Posted at 7:34 AM, Jun 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-03 11:47:54-04

PHOENIX — On Monday, the Arizona Department of Education released its recommendations to help guide school districts and charter schools as they craft their own plans to reopen schools.

The "Roadmap for Reopening Schools" is the product of more than a month of work by a task force, made up of more than 100 teachers, principals, charter leaders, school nurses and parental input from across the state.

The guide covers several topics. From physical and mental health protocols, to school finance and technology, all of it is meant to help districts and charters prepare for four different scenarios.

Scenario One: All students in physical buildings from the start of the school year

Scenario Two: Some students in physical buildings and some students distance learning from the start of the school year

Scenario Three: All students distance learning from the start of the school year, with the option of returning to physical buildings when appropriate

Scenario Four: Intermittent distance learning throughout the school year based on emergency closures as defined by local and state health departments

The state also includes more specific considerations for teachers, school leaders, students and families based on each of those four scenarios.

Much of the state's guidance refers to the CDC's guidance, starting with their three-step decision tree to gauge if it's even safe to have students and staff on campus.

The second step of that tool calls for physical distancing through increased spacing, small groups and limited mixing between groups.

That could mean health and safety measures like:

  • Daily health checks
  • Assigned seating on school buses
  • Physical barriers in the classroom
  • Creating "one way" routes in hallways
  • Staggered drop-off and pick-up times
  • Closing or staggering the use of communal spaces like playgrounds or cafeterias

Following the announcement that Arizona schools would be allowed to reopen in the fall, several school districts have begun outlining their plans for how they will handle the upcoming school year. Click on each point in the map below to learn about each school district's plans that have been announced.

In cases where physical distancing is not possible, schools are "encouraged to consider implementing other mitigation strategies like cloth face masks, hand washing and sanitization."

There are also more specific recommendations for prioritizing mental health, accommodating those with special needs and creating an action plan for if, and when, someone on campus gets sick.

These are just some of the key takeaways, and you can see the entire plan here.

While the guidance is comprehensive, we're told it is not a mandate or a list of everything schools need to do to safely reopen. The department calls it a "framework" to help districts and charters make their own decisions when it comes to keeping students and staff safe. It's a "living, breathing" document that could change at any time depending on state and local health trends, and community feedback.