School is out through the end of the 2019-2020 school year, according to a joint statement today from Governor Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman.
The announcement extends the school shutdown previously scheduled through April 10. The decision follows updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an announcement from the White House extending physical distancing guidelines until April 30, 2020.
The shutdown applies to all Arizona public schools, both district and charter. Private schools are required to remain closed in alignment with federal guidance recommending closures through at least April 30, 2020.
Private school leaders have the option of shutting down through the end of the year or waiting for additional guidance. They are likely to follow the path of public schools, experts predicted.
Parents supported the decision for health reasons. And even though it was expected, the news sparked shock and concern.
“I understand it and agree with it,” said Tonya Perkins who has two children at Apache Elementary School in Peoria. “It’s just difficult when your child (and you) have to learn an entirely new system just to get school work done. …This morning has been a challenge but hopefully, it gets better.”
Judy Kupillas’ 18-year-old daughter, a high school senior, was looking forward to the graduation experience. “It’s the right thing to do, but it’s so devastating to the kids, especially the seniors, who are going to miss out on prom, senior ditch day, graduation ceremony, etc.,” she said.
Uncertainty about the impact on their children’s education and emotional well being worries parents. “As a parent to my two little ones, I see the fear of not knowing what is really happening,” said Danielle Bess, a teacher. “Their normal has changed so drastically. We are coping together quite well, but at the same time, it is hard to not have all of the answers.”
Schools are reaching out to reassure parents and promise more information to address many unknowns and concerns.
The Chandler Unified School District cited the unprecedented “level of disruption and uncertainty” facing school parents: “We will be following up with more information to answer the multitude of questions you have regarding the end of the year related to grades, graduation, transcripts, scholarships, summer school, and continued instruction, etc. We need your continued patience as we plan and coordinate with other district and state officials.”
The Scottsdale Unified School District promised parents ongoing online education and more information to come. “We will continue with our online learning through the remainder of this school year,” the SUSD Cabinet told parents today. “We know that this news brings with it many questions about the logistics of carrying out this direction.”
Parents and teachers consider a big downside to be the lack of personal and social connection with teachers and other students through “distance learning.”
Some parents are trying to find an upside among the chaos. “It gives us as a family an opportunity to explore and experience distance learning for the time being,” said Blanca Rivers of Tempe.
The full statement:
- “Today’s announcement is intended to give parents and educators as much certainty as possible so they can plan and make decisions. While this isn’t the outcome any of us wanted, we are grateful for the partnership of schools around the state, who have stepped up to offer virtual and take-home learning opportunities for our students. These efforts are crucial, and we recognize that schools are making every effort possible to continue providing instruction during closures. We also thank our legislative partners for passing legislation ensuring all educators and staff see no disruption in pay. Our number one priority will continue to be health and safety, and we will continue to work closely with public health officials to make the best decisions for kids, families, and our school communities.”
- On March 27, Governor Ducey signed legislation to support schools during closures, ensure school letter grades are held harmless, suspend statewide testing requirements, ensure school days are not extended into the summer, require learning opportunities for students to continue, and ensure teachers and staff see no disruption in pay as a result of COVID-19.
- That same week, the Governor joined Superintendent Hoffman to launch Arizona Enrichment Centers, which will offer childcare for first responders, critical healthcare workers, and essential public sector workers, including child safety workers.
- Information about meals for kids, childcare, special education considerations, learning resources for families and educators and more can be found at azed.gov.