The start date of in-person classes in Arizona schools is not certain yet, but state Superintendent Kathy Hoffman said it’s not likely schools will be ready by Aug. 17.
Her statement came Thursday during a press conference where Gov. Doug Ducey outlined additional clarification for reopening schools.
Hoffman said it is not reasonable to set a state in-person start date for schools and wants it to be determined by health metrics.
The state is focusing on developing public health benchmarks to use in conjunction with county health department data to help school districts make their own determinations for the right start date for in-person instruction. They will have this benchmarking framework available to districts to review by Aug. 7.
Though schools must begin distance learning instruction by the start dates they’ve submitted to the state, Hoffman said schools will likely have different in-person start dates based on each district’s situation.
“At this point it’s unlikely schools will be ready to start fully in person by Aug. 17,” she said.
Schools will still be required to offer 180 instructional days or equivalent hours, though distance learning may count toward this requirement.
Schools will also be required to have an on-site space for students by Aug. 17, even if in-person classes have not resumed. Hoffman said the intent is to protect children for whom school is the safest place for them to be.
A district wouldn’t need to have on-site options at every school. It could be provided at one school or by opening up a school building. She also said community partners, such as the Boys and Girls Club, could provide this.
Additional funding and grants will be available to school districts that follow the standards set by the state, including social distancing protocols.
Schools will be required to mandate face coverings for all students and staff over the age of 5, though there will be chances for students to take breaks from masks when social distancing can be adhered to or when they are outside in a playground setting where distance is being observed.
There is previous guidance from the state regarding scenarios for dealing with positive COVID-19 cases in a school. Ultimately, the power to close a school, should it be necessary, would fall to district leadership and governing boards.
The latest executive order regarding schools reopening is at https://azgovernor.gov.