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Arizona Gov. Ducey: Parents Will Have Choice of In-Person or Distance Learning in Schools

Capitol Media Services file photo by Howard Fischer
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey

There was no firm date announced for the start of in-classroom schooling in Arizona during Gov. Doug Ducey’s COVID update this afternoon.  But during the press conference, the governor announced additional resources and what he called “flexibility and clarity” for the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

   Called the “Arizona Open For Learning” plan, Ducey said it provides options for state families.  It will invest $440 million in federal dollars in Arizona schools and provide state schools flexibility in making the best choices for their students.  State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman says the decision for in-class instruction is in the hands of school districts themselves.

"What we’re committed to doing, in this executive order is creating a framework that identifies the different data points that they can use, with their county health officials, to determine whether or not schools should be open for in-person instruction," Hoffman said.

            Also during today’s press conference, the governor extended an executive order continuing the closure of bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, gyms, water parks, and tubing.  The order also continues the prohibition of large public events and enables local law enforcement to take immediate enforcement action to ensure compliance.  Today’s extension will be reviewed every two weeks.


(The following is the press release from Gov. Doug Ducey's office.)


Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey today announced additional resources, flexibility and clarity for the start of the 2020-2021 school year.


Gov. Ducey said the “Arizona: Open for Learning” plan provides maximum options for Arizona families, ensures students receive a full academic year of education, invests a total of $440 million in federal dollars to our schools and gives local school leaders the flexibility and public health guidance to make the best decisions for their students.

The governor’s plan, developed in consultation with school leaders from across the state, school advocates and Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, includes the following:

Ducey says learning must start immediately:

  • While much of the public discussion has been focused on a “date certain,” learning needs to start ASAP. The focus should be on ensuring that Arizona students have a successful academic year — and that will, in fact, look different than ever before given the ongoing pandemic.

  • Regardless of when regular in-person classroom learning begins, Ducey said each school district and charter school needs to begin teacher-led distance learning by the first day of their traditional instructional calendar. For some districts that date lands in July; for others it lands in August. 

  • Schools will continue to be required to provide 180 days of instruction or equivalent hours, whether a family chooses to do so in person or via distance learning.

Requirements for on-site learning and support services: 

  • To qualify for enhanced funding, schools must begin offering free on-site learning and support services for students who need a place to go during the day as already required by EO 2020-41 on Aug. 17, as prescribed by EO 2020-44.

  • This is especially important given that some parents work in critical and essential occupations and are unable to accommodate virtual teacher-led instruction in their homes. We also know that many children don’t have access to technology. Given income inequality issues in our communities, we must provide on-site learning options and support services for students.

  • Notification of these options shall be provided by schools to all parents. Special attention should be paid to students enrolled in free or reduced price lunch programs, special education students, English language learners and those in the care of the Department of Child Safety or foster care, and schools must make contact with the parents of these specific students.

Benchmarks and flexibility for opening safely:

  • Gov. Ducey is providing maximum flexibility to local school leaders, recognizing they need the expertise of public health professionals and data to guide their decision-making.

  • By Aug. 7, the Arizona Department of Health Services will develop and release public health benchmarks for the safe return of in-person, teacher-led classroom instruction.

  • Local school leaders will make the determination on when to physically open for regular classes, and consider these recommendations, guidance from county health officials, community needs and available resources to determine when to open.

  • This provides maximum flexibility to school leaders, with public health guidance.

Resources to support: 

  • No matter what school leaders decide to do, this school year will inevitably look different than last school year.

  • Gov. Ducey is announcing an additional investment in K-12 education from federal CARES Act dollars: A total of $370 million in grant dollars to schools. This will ensure budget stability, even with more students learning online, and provide additional dollars when students do learn in the classroom — recognizing the additional costs in-person learning will bring to districts this school year.

  • To qualify for these dollars, schools will need to provide the on-site learning opportunities and support services, outlined above, for students who need somewhere to learn.

Face coverings: 

  • To facilitate the safe return to the classroom, all schools will develop face covering policies to protect students and staff.

  • Exceptions shall be made for students when they can socially distance, are outside in playground settings with distancing, breaks for students to take their masks off in a safe environment, and other exceptions outlined in CDC guidelines.

  • Cloth face coverings should NOT be worn by children under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

The achievement gap: 

  • According to a 2020 analysis by McKinsey & Company related to the impacts of the pandemic, learning loss will probably be greatest among low-income, black, and Hispanic students. Lower-income students are less likely to have access to high-quality remote learning or to a conducive learning environment, such as a quiet space with minimal distractions, devices they do not need to share, high-speed internet, and parental academic supervision.

  • The governor has made the following additional investments to mitigate these impacts:

    • $40 million to expand broadband in rural communities to bridge the digital divide

    • $20 million to bring in extra support for high-need schools

    • $6 million for the Arizona Teachers Academy to assist with the teacher shortage

    • $1 million in microgrants to support innovative programs to continue educating Arizona students

    • $1 million for vehicles for the Arizona School for the Deaf and the Blind

    • $700,000 for leadership development through Beat the Odds Leadership Academy

    • $500,000 for tutoring from Teach for America to provide tutoring to kids most in need, in schools most impacted across the state

“From academics to health and nutrition, to social and emotional development and child safety, schools are the backbone of our communities,” said Gov. Ducey. “This plan provides maximum options for Arizona families, ensures students receive a full academic year of education, and gives local school leaders the flexibility, resources and public health guidance to make the best decisions for their students. I am grateful to all the education stakeholders and leaders, including Superintendent Hoffman, for their continued advocacy for the children of our state.”

“Despite facing a tremendous amount of uncertainty over the past five months, Arizona schools have continued to be pillars of our communities, finding creative ways to keep our students engaged academically, socially, and emotionally," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman. "Today's Executive Order provides much-needed guidance and clarity for schools as they prepare for the upcoming academic year. I am grateful to all of our school leaders, educators, and Dr. Christ and Governor Ducey, for their work supporting Arizona's students."

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