Amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic, one thing is certain – going back to school will look different, depending on the institution.
The Grand Canyon School, which teaches students from as far away as Valle, 23 miles to the south, and is the only Pre-K through 12th grade school district located inside a Grand Canyon National Park, has developed a three-part reopening plan of action.
“We are going to offer a full online distance learning option for parents who would rather keep their children at home during these uncertain times. For parents who wish to have their children return to school, we are offering two other options: to do a partial or hybrid schedule two days per week in-person and two days at-home distance learning, and a final option to attend school full-time,” said Superintendent Dr. Rochonne “Shonny” Bria. “Many of our constituents work in concessions, fire departments, or are park rangers so we want to accommodate their schedules. We will be in full compliance when we open our doors to laughter and learning on Sept. 8.”
Coconino Community College (CCC) has made the decision to limit in-person contact and will be offering remote delivery courses only. “All along the way, we’ve been following CDC guidelines and working very closely with the county with our back-to-campus plan, as well as bringing employees back to work,” said CCC President Colleen Smith.
The college has decided to go all virtual, except for hand-on labs essential for programs such as nursing.
“What stands out about CCC is we are really focused on helping one another out through this difficult time. Our faculty is participating in training to teach online and how to successfully engage students. We want to make sure that the instruction is not interrupted and consistent,” said CCC Provost Nate Southerland.
The CCC computer labs will be open, but students must follow social distancing practices.
Beginning Aug. 12, Northern Arizona University (NAU) will be implementing NAUFlex, which will allow students to attend classes at remote locations in real time. In-person instruction coupled with ongoing NAUFlex will begin on Aug. 31.
“After extensive planning and consultation, we are confident that our plans for the fall will allow NAU to deliver the high-quality education that is part of our national reputation,” said President Rita Cheng.
She added that all students should be tested for COVID-19. “We are staying in close contact with our students before they arrive on campus to reinforce the importance of following health and safety guidance, both for their own personal health and for that of our broader community.”
Excited and at the same time a bit nervous, NAU Junior Joseph Collins said, “I don’t know how it’s going to work, but I feel like NAU is taking the right steps. They’ve made it super easy to enroll for fully remote, in-person or partially online. Just a few checked boxes and you’re all done.”
Providing all students with iPad technology devices, internet access and hotspots as needed, the 2020-2021 school year for the Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD) will start on Aug. 17, with flexible remote and distance learning options only, delaying in-person instruction at least through the first quarter, Oct. 9.
“I’m proud of the collaborative efforts and the countless hours of planning that staff have put in since May to prepare for three different learning models,” said FUSD Superintendent Michael Penca.
“Recently, a common question I’ve been asked is how I will balance work with having to help my two kids with their schooling. I’ve always felt that our country is very fortunate to have such quality education without tuition. I think the schools here have done a great job with the decisions that have resulted from state guidelines,” said FUSD teacher and parent Emily Louis.
Recognizing there isn’t a perfect plan, the Williams Unified School District #2 will be using no-touch thermometers for buses and drop-offs, and masks will be required on school buses. Lunch times will be staggered, and hand washing and sanitizers will be practiced throughout the day.
“I’m excited that our school is preparing to open for in-person classes as sanctioned,” said Williams Elementary and Middle School (WEMS) math teacher Cathleen Goodell. “It’s so important for the children to have that support, consistency and community.”
To prepare to be a proficient online teacher, Goodell has participated in several professional development online learning management classes.
In the event that schools begin to experience a COVID-19 outbreak, the governing board of each school district would work in conjunction with local county health offices to determine whether a school will be closed, according to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman.
Governor Ducey has allocated $440 million in federal funding to help Arizona’s K-12 public schools begin the 2020-2021 academic school year. The back-to-school plan, Arizona: Open for Learning, requires that schools provide on-site learning and support services for students who need a place to learn. FBN
By V. Ronnie Tierney, FBN