Governor Doug Ducey issued an order Wednesday requiring most Arizona K-12 public and charter schools to start offering in-person learning by March 15 or as soon as they get back from spring break. For insight, Karie Dozer spoke with Joe Thomas, the president of the Arizona Education Association. There will be exceptions for counties with high transmission rates and remote learning will still be available.
Thomas talked about his immediate reaction to governor Doug Ducey’s order. He said most districts are already in person if they aren’t headed there. He said the teachers and districts have worked with parents and educators to create a good learning environment for students for about a year. Thomas said many schools decided to have a cooling-off week immediately after spring break to keep people healthy after traveling and mingling with others. He said he believes the executive order is disruptive. He said he does not know anybody in the education community who’s happy with the news.
We asked what the individual districts have been doing to prepare for going back to school in person. Thomas said many districts are having challenges with meeting the funding to meet obstacles of the pandemic. He said educators have been working long hours to prepare for the lesson plans in-person and online. He said districts have been working to schedule maintenance. All these plans have been set by the schools but not have to be put aside to meet this order, Thomas said.
We also asked about the exemptions for the districts and if there are any. Thomas said they are hoping to get some flexibility from the state. He said they have been revising plans and working to move in the right direction. Thomas believes districts felt like they were making the right decisions while they got “all the pieces ready.” He hopes they get some flexibility. Thomas talked about what he believes the executive order should have said and how he would have gone about it. He said schools and districts have to be ready for students so they have a safe space, in many aspects, to go back to school.