APACHE JUNCTION, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - The Apache Junction Unified School District began their first day of online classes on July 21 after several months of preparation.
"We are very excited that this is the first day of the 2020-21 school year for Apache Junction School District. We believe we're the first school to open in the state of Arizona," said AJUSD Superintendent Krista Anderson.
Due to the governor's orders, schools cannot be in-person until August 17.
"I think parents really want their children in school, and there is not a single person in our school district that will say, 'oh no, we want online.' We really want our kids in our classrooms, that's what we really cherish," Anderson said. "We know we're confident in what we're doing, but right now, we are planning on opening our doors on August 17. We're going to follow the guidance of Superintendent Kathy Hoffman and Governor Doug Ducey and make sure that our students are safe."
Anderson says that if schools can resume in-person education on August 17, their families will have the option to continue online classes or go to a hybrid schedule with two days of in-person learning and three days online.
Anderson said the hardest part leading up to the first day of classes was making sure that every student had access to computers and the internet.
Schools are expected to start in some capacity by August 17, with each district making different plans.
"We needed to make sure that we had enough computers and hotspots for those that needed it. We pretty much have a 1-1 device for all of our students K-12th grade and then hotspots available for any family that does not have internet access at home," Anderson explained.
AJUSD also provided professional development for teachers, so they are fully equipped and prepared to teach their classes online.
"I have no doubt that there are school districts who are watching us to see what worked and what didn't work. We know there are going to be bumps in the road, there is no doubt about that. What we want to do is improve tomorrow better than what we did today," Anderson said.
One parent said she was pleasantly surprised by how easy the first day of classes ended up being.
"I woke up, and I got them ready earlier and logged on, the hotspots work, they went straight to class, it was--it was way smoother and easier than I anticipated when they first told us they were going to do this," said Gretchen Longtin, who had 5th and 8th-grade sons. "My fear was that they were going to do where the kids were kind of on their own, 'here's your lesson plan.' I literally checked, peeked on the boys all day today; they were engaged, I could see their teacher and their classmates the entire time."
Anderson said she is sending out feedback forms to teachers and parents to find out what worked and what didn't work so that they can improve along the way.