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Coronavirus in Arizona: Schools, teachers, face daunting reality amid extended school closures

School desk generic
Posted at 3:59 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 15:46:26-04

PHOENIX — School districts and teachers across Arizona now have the daunting task of finding ways to meet the growing needs of their communities remotely for the rest of the school year.

Josh Buckley is one of those teachers, working from home to support students in ways that go far beyond school work.

“When the news came out this morning, teachers were like, ‘I knew this was going to happen but I’m not ready,’” Buckley said. “Yes, there’s curriculum and standards but we’re there to create safe environments for kids to learn in and now we don’t have that environment anymore."

As president of Mesa Education Association Buckley is also fielding calls and concerns from teachers all across our state’s largest district, Mesa Public Schools.

“Teachers miss their kids. We got in this business to interact and work with our students on a one-on-one classroom environment, that piece is gone now,” Buckley said. “What can we do now in this new environment? How does it translate to an online environment?”

School districts themselves are also reaching out for help. The Arizona School Boards Association supports and advocates for 223 public school districts across the state. It is now balancing closure concerns with ongoing issues like school funding and the teacher shortage.

“Trying to stay above water and not forget that these are still big, serious problems that are still happening, they are still occurring and are probably going to be occurring for the next few years, so don’t forget about that,” said Heidi Otero, the association’s director of communication.

It is a new reality creating new challenges, but teachers say they’ll keep doing their best.

“I think something like this leads to bare how different students' lives are from one to the other, and what access they have, and you know what available resources they have,” Buckley said.

“How do we make sure that we’re still meeting their needs when we’re not there with them?”