Back to school during COVID-19: Arizona school reopening plans

Distance learning is the new normal, with individual schools and districts awaiting a time when our community meets public health benchmarks for a safe return to campus.

“Information is evolving and our response along with it.”

That comment on the Kyrene Elementary District website is perhaps the understatement of back-to-school planning for the 2020-21 school year. Never has there been so much uncertainty about the start to a new school year.

Most public district and charter schools have made plans offering families the ability to choose from among three general options:

  • Full-time distance learning from home
  • In-person learning at school sites once public health data points to be released Aug. 7 are met.
  • Hybrid, or “flex” models that include some distance learning and some on-campus time (once safe to do so).

All students will start in a distance-learning mode as the school year commences.

Public districts are required to provide Onsite Learning, a safe place for students to do their school work during the day if their parents are not able to be home or the family has inadequate access to technology. According to the Cave Creek Unified district website, “It is a combination of a study hall and daycare supervised by classified staff, not teachers.”

It’s important to note the caveats for each choice: In-person learning may not happen for some weeks. (Some schools already have posted start dates well into September and October.) And if you choose a fully distance learning model you may be required to commit for a full semester, or at least a full quarter.

In-person learning, when it begins, will be done in the context of significant changes to routines and procedures to ensure student and staff safety. Social distancing practices, more hand washing and required masks for adults and most kids will be standard. Students may be clustered in small groups with little mingling allowed between groups, making it easier to isolate and contain any spread of infection that may occur.

Here’s what we know about current plans by the Valley’s public district and charter schools.

Updated Aug. 4, 2020


Avondale Elementary School District. The school year starts on Monday, Aug. 3. The district has created three instructional models: in-person learning, flex model and Digital Academy. Students who chose in-person instruction will start the year in the flex model. This will continue until the Governor’s Executive Order is lifted and schools are able to offer in-person instruction. Once the Governor’s Executive Order is lifted, in-person learning will be available for families who selected that option. Students who chose flex and Digital Academy, they will continue in this model.

Balsz Elementary School District #31. Remote learning for students will begin Aug. 17 and continue until at least the end of the first quarter. Parents who have to work outside the home can have their children attend the virtual learning program from their home school campus, where heightened cleaning and safety measures will be in place.

Cave Creek Unified School District #93. Distance learning begins Aug. 5. Onsite Learning for students who need a safe place to learn begins Aug. 17. CCUSD is planning to start in-person learning on Sept. 8. Students that have selected the fully online learning option will continue with 100 percent online learning for the remainder of the school year.

Creighton School District #14. School started Aug. 3, with students attending  every day from home through a structured, socially engaging online platform led by their Creighton teachers. The learning experience includes time to collaborate and interact with friends online. Each student participating in remote learning will be provided a district-issued iPad and will have secure access to district-approved instructional resources and materials. The soonest the transition to in-person learning on campus is Oct. 13, after fall break.

Deer Valley Unified School District #97. K-12 students will remain online from Aug. 3 through the end of the first quarter (Oct. 9). Students whose families chose in-person learning will return to school buildings following fall break, on Wednesday, Oct. 14. COVID-19 cases will continue to be monitored. If significant improvement is made, the return to campus could be adjusted to an earlier date. The other option: Deer Valley Online Academy (full-time online learning).

Dysart Unified School District. All students will start school remotely on Tuesday, August 4. Students of families that select the in-person option will transition to campus when it is allowable.

Fountain Hills Unified School District #98. Online instruction begins Aug. 11. Students enrolled in FHUSD Virtual Academy (asynchronous learning) also begin that day.

Fowler School District #45. First day of online instruction is Aug. 17. Chromebooks will be provided for students who need them.

Glendale Elementary School District #40. Online learning begins Aug. 10. Free Onsite Learning opportunities and support services will be available Aug. 17 for students who need access to the Internet or cannot stay home during the day. In-person learning will be delayed until at least after Labor Day. When campuses reopen students can continue online instruction at home or return to the classroom. Students can switch modes at the end of the quarter.

Glendale Union High School District #205. The remote learning plan for all GUHSD schools will begin Monday, Aug. 10 and will continue until at least Friday, Sept. 4.

Kyrene Elementary School District. Kyrene Digital Academy (full-time online learning) will begin July 30. In-person and In-person/Flex Distance Learning will begin Aug. 17. All students will attend school for the same number of days, but calendars will be staggered.

Madison Elementary School District #38. In-person learning will be delayed until the end of the first quarter (Oct. 2) unless public health benchmarks are reached before then. All students begin online learning on Aug. 11, with a program that mirrors a typical school day with class times, scheduled breaks, electives and signature programs. Madison also offers an online-only Madison Virtual Academy. Families that start their children in one learning mode have the option to switch to another at the beginning of each new quarter.

Osborn School District #8. Distance Learning began Aug. 3 with a mix of recorded and live instruction. Students and teachers will be able to interact with each other on a district-provided Chromebook. Schedules will be provided for students throughout the day. A Free Safe Learning Space is available only to registered Osborn students and will begin Monday, Aug. 17. All students will continue online instruction until at least Oct. 12.

Paradise Valley Unified School District #69. Students will begin school on Wednesday, Aug. 5, in an all-virtual learning environment and will continue in this model, PVConnect, through Labor Day weekend. The instructional model moving forward may include hybrid and fully in-person options, depending on data and guidance from public health and state officials.

Peoria Unified School District #11. All K-12 students will start virtual instruction on Aug. 5. Individual school principals will be providing information on how to check out a laptop, information on resources for internet access and how to log-in to the virtual system. The district recently voted to delay in-person learning to at least Tuesday, Sept. 8, subject to public health benchmarks.

Phoenix Elementary School District #1. Distance learning begins Aug. 6. Learning Labs will open for district students on two campuses beginning Aug. 17  for students who need supervision while learning through virtual instruction.

Phoenix Union High School District #210. All students will go back to school virtually beginning Aug. 3 and will continue with distance learning for the first quarter.

Roosevelt School District #66. School begins remotely for K-8 students beginning Aug. 3. All schools have distributed Apple iPads to students. Parents can select a preferred learning setting for the remainder of the school year, once public health benchmarks have been established.

Scottsdale Unified School District #48. Families have two options: Full Return To Campus (preK-12) or Full Time Online (K-12). Both learning options are led by the same state-certified, teachers and will offer an enriching, engaging, rigorous academic environment with full social and emotional support programs. In-person instruction will begin with enhanced distance learning; students will not return to campus until at least Sept. 8.

Washington Elementary School District #6. Distance learning begins Aug. 10 with district-issued Chromebooks for all students. Free, on-site, supervised space for distance learners will be available beginning Aug. 17.

Wilson Elementary School District #7. Online learning at home began Aug. 3 with district-provided devices and materials. Wilson is planning on students returning to the classrooms on Aug. 17. This is subject to change once public health benchmarks are released.


Academies of Math and Science. Distance learning will begin on Aug. 5, with students transitioning to campus no sooner than Aug. 17.

Accelerated Learning Center. Distance learning for all students will begin on the scheduled start date of Aug. 12. The ability to open the campus for on-site learning will depend on public health benchmarks.

Amerischools Academy Phoenix Camelback. Intends to return to face-to-face classroom instruction beginning Aug. 17.

BASIS Charter Schools. Parents can choose in-person education (when public health benchmarks are met) or distance learning instruction.

Benjamin Franklin Charter Schools. Remote instruction will begin Monday, Aug. 3, and will return to in-person instruction as soon as permitted by the state.

Candeo Schools. Families will choose either Integrated On-Campus Learning (IOCL) or Distance Learning (DL) at home for the start of the school year. The two programs will run concurrently, with students progressing through the curriculum at the same pace. As circumstances change, students can move to a different program at various checkpoints during the year.

Heritage Academy. We are planning to resume school on the same date that we previously published for each school. (See your local school website for the calendar for the exact start date.) Classes will be provided online (via Google Classroom) until it is safe to resume in-person, on-campus learning.

Hirsch Academy. School begins Aug. 10. as a hybrid of packet-based learning, online learning and small-group learning support by appointment. The cafeteria will be open with Chromebooks and Wi-Fi so families can schedule a two-hour block of time for students to complete online learning while supervised and supported by Hirsch staff. Educators will have open office hours to allow students to come in and sit with their teacher to receive help on packet-based work. Breakfast and lunch will be served during open hours.

Horizon Honors. Distance learning for all K-12 students begins Aug. 17 with live teaching and roll taken. Supervised, socially distanced space on campus will be made available where students can complete their school work during instructional school hours. Masks are required for all participants. Club Horizon will be available (for a fee) before and after school for students in Grades K-6.

Legacy Traditional Schools. Online learning begins Aug. 5. In-person learning will begin Monday, Aug. 17 for students who selected that option. Face coverings will be recommended but optional. Students will eat lunch in their classrooms some days and in the cafeteria on other days. Custodians will sanitize the entire building each evening. Parents will not be permitted on campus.

Leading Edge Academy. Distance learning will begin Aug. 17 and in-person instruction will begin no sooner than that. Students in the online learning platform will be able to maintain their seat in their enrolled brick and mortar school.

Metropolitan Arts Institute. All students will do remote learning for the first quarter of the school year, beginning August 3. The first quarter ends on Friday, October 2.

Reid Traditional Schools/Painted Rock Academy. On-site classes will begin Aug. 17 and will be held in the morning and early afternoon. Remote classes will consist of at-home academic lessons and an hour-long, live remote-instruction session with the teacher each afternoon. Remote and onsite learning programs will cover roughly the same material, making it easy for students to move between the programs as needed.

San Tan Charter School. School starts July 30. On-campus, hybrid and home-based learning experiences will be offered. Hybrid involved two days on campus each week and three days at home. Transitions to other programs can be made a quarter breaks.

Scottsdale Country Day School. School year begins remotely on Aug. 10. Once the state mandate is listed, students will have the option of in-person or remote learning.

Villa Montessori School. School begins Aug. 10 with an online learning delivery model available to any K-8 students who would rather not attend school in person right away. Remote-learning students can return to in-person learning after fall break, winter break or spring break. In-person students can switch to remote learning at any time.