PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- After learning at home for a full year, thousands of Arizona students have the option to return to the classroom starting Monday, following an executive order from Governor Doug Ducey. 

Ducey made the announcement on March 3 that instructed schools should offer in-person, teacher-led instruction by March 15, which is after spring break for many schools.

Ducey says these plans are according to CDC metrics, 12 of Arizona’s 15 counties are in phases where all schools are safe to open, including in the state’s two largest counties, Maricopa and Pima.

However, students may continue participating in virtual instruction if their parents or guardians choose.

Some exceptions will be made for middle and high schools located in counties with “high” transmission of COVID-19, which includes three Arizona counties: Coconino, Yavapai and Pinal.

“If a governing board and Superintendent feel like they are not able to operate their school safely, then they have the obligation to not have students on campus and so that’s unaffected by the executive order either way," says Arizona School Boards Association Director of Governmental Relations, Chris Kotterman. 

Some teachers have been preparing all along for this day to come with plenty of sanitizer and clear dividers set up around each desk to keep their students safe, but some where were sent scrambling after Ducey's announcement. 

“There may be some just because of a lack of ability to prepare adequately. We haven’t heard any big issues with potential sickouts or anything like that, but that is always a contingency that is we’re aware of. I know that districts have been preparing for that just in case.”

Some districts who have been remote for the last year are giving teachers a little time coming back from Spring Break to finish prepping their classrooms and then bringing kids back later this week or next. Other districts who have been remote for a full year and are on Spring Break all this week, will return the following week starting on March 22. 

City View High school seniors Jackie Ortiz and Frank Navarro feared the day would never come when they would once again walk their campus halls in downtown Phoenix. The students have been learning from home for a full year. Both students say they couldn’t wait to ditch their laptops and see their teachers and friends again.

“I felt so excited I am finally going to be back and being able to talk to teachers and being around friends and people,” said Ortiz.

“I a lot of people don’t’ know, but I feel like mental had a lot to do with it. A lot of people don’t’ take mental illness seriously, still piles up piles up piles up,” said Navarro.


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