When Arizona students go back to school, things will look a lot different. But the types of safety measures to protect students and staff from COVID-19 will vary from campus to campus.

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- When Arizona students go back to school, things will look a lot different. But the types of safety measures to protect students and staff from COVID-19 will vary from campus to campus.

"There's no one size fits all, "said Kathy Hoffman, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction. "We have Navajo Nation in the NE part of the state that was hit really hard by COVID-19, and there are a lot of families that don't have access to the internet. What works for Navajo Nation is going to look 100 times different than what works best for Phoenix or another urban-based school."

Arizona's Department of Education released its guidelines for public school districts to use as they determine the best way to re-open schools. Hoffman said that nothing is a mandate; it's just a roadmap for educators to use based on CDC health guidelines. Among the suggestions:

  • Desks are six feet apart and facing the same direction
  • Older students and staff members wear face masks
  • Reduce class sizes
  • Only one student per row on school buses
  • Students eat lunch in their classroom - not the cafeteria

Dr. Jesse Welsh is the Superintendent of the Paradise Valley School District. He said that right now, everything is on the table - as they determine the best way to bring students back safely.

"We are looking at having a little bit of an expanded number of options in place for online, particularly for some of our families that may not be comfortable returning to a face-to-face environment," said Welsh. "We're still working through the details of what is actually doable in terms of additional distancing in place."

One of the big challenges for Arizona's public schools is the problem of overcrowding, making it difficult to create social distancing. There is currently no additional state funding to help reduce class size.

Joe Thomas is a teacher and president of the Arizona Education Association. He said it would be up to state lawmakers to decide how safe our students and teachers will be.

"As they come up with ways to create safe places to work and learn, it will be really telling if the legislature says, we will cut funding," said Thomas. "You can't do both."

Most school districts are expected to announce their plans for re-opening schools later this month.

Jason Barry is best known for his Dirty Dining Report which airs Fridays at 6:30 p.m. on CBS 5.  He is also the storyteller behind CBS 5's Pay It Forward which airs every Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
 
 

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