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Arizona schools reopening at start of school year, Gov. Ducey says

Posted at 1:08 PM, May 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-29 04:47:46-04

PHOENIX — Governor Doug Ducey announced Thursday that Arizona schools will be open at the beginning of the 2020-2021 year, and summer schools, day camps, and youth sports can open immediately with special health precautions.

“It will feel different, but the idea is that kids will have a more traditional, routine school day where possible and safe,” Ducey said.

“The thing, as a mom, that I can’t stress enough that schools supply so much more than education,” said Dr. Cara Christ, state health director.

Christ noted many children have been in group setting for daycare throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers are also partners in identifying child abuse and neglect, and they are required to report suspicions to the Department of Child Safety.

Christ said schools would have flexibility to reopen with smaller class sizes and more disinfecting protocols. Students would be encouraged to frequently wash hands and may remain in the classroom for lunch instead of going to the cafeteria.

State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman is expected to provide further details about changes needed to protect teachers and students on Monday. Many Arizona districts begin their school year in late July, which is less than two months away.

When asked if teachers or parents who have health concerns would be able to still learn or work from home, Ducey said that distance learning is still an option "where needed," but he didn't clarify how those options would work. Staff from the Governor’s office also said there were ongoing discussions about school district funding for next year. It is normally distributed on a per-pupil basis, but there are uncertainties on how traditional district budgets will be affected if many parents opt for online school.

The governor also announced summer schools, day camps, and youth sports could resume immediately. The Arizona Department of Health Services released public health guidance for athletes, coaches, and parents involved in youth sports and events.

Ducey also announced during Thursday’s news conference that Michael Wisehart will be the new director for the Arizona Department of Economic Security. The current director, Tom Betlach, announced he would step down from the role on June 3 after agreeing to come out of retirement to fill the position temporarily.

RELATED: What are restaurants and other businesses doing to keep you safe?

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, the state has had 17,763 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 857 deaths. Nationwide, the death-toll surpassed 100,000 on Wednesday.