TUCSON, Ariz. — The pandemic has transformed how districts are teaching students.
The Governor issued two executive orders in less than a week. One gives districts financial stability in delivering remote learning ---the other pushed back the start date for in-person classes to August 17th because of a spike in COVID cases.
All Arizona schools must — by law — deliver 180 days of instruction. A change in the start date requires an adjustment in the school calendar, which must be approved by Governing Boards.
But the spread of COVID is unpredictable so now schools and districts are wrestling with whether they should they start remotely as originally planned on August 5th or wait until the 17th.
Vail Superintendent John Carruth is on the state education committee to reopen schools. “I think what all schools in Arizona are trying to understand is are all the conditions on the 17th going to be substantively different or is there a likelihood that the 17th will be pushed back for in person instruction again. And therefore it's better to start remotely anyway.”
Carruth said a delayed start could push back paychecks for some staff. Teachers are generally safe.
“So teachers under contract, we will have budget certainty for them.” In other words, they won't see a disruption in paychecks if they're under a 12 month contract.
But that might not be the case for hourly employees. “If you're an hourly staff member and you've been board approved for a certain number of hours, then schools and districts have budget certainty in place to pay you, but you have to report to the work site to be paid,” said Carruth.
To keep staff working, Carruth says districts may have to reconfigure staff duties that includes helping to deliver instruction. “Doing remote learning is going to take a lot of hands for it to happen and more than just the teachers who are delivering that,” he said.
Whatever start date the districts and schools set, Carruth says school leaders are all aiming for one important goal — learning will look different than what it was at the end of last school year.
“That's an important distinction to make. The level of rigor, the level of content will be more closely aligned to what we're used to see in school than what was provided in the 4th quarter when things had to pivot very quickly and the transitions were made,” he said.
The Vail District Governing Board voted last week to push back its original July start date to August 10th. Carruth, as well as TUSD and Sunnyside districts, tell us that they still haven't finalized a plan.