Arizona schools want to get kids back in class next fall after COVID-19 caused attendance to plummet.
Arizona Department of Education numbers show enrollment in public and charter schools dropped by 38,000 students for the 2020-2021 school year compared to the previous year. Of those students, 40% were preschool and kindergarteners.
This summer, the Arizona Department of Education launched a statewide campaign called "Ready for School AZ," encouraging families to enroll their students in in-person learning. The "Ready for School Arizona" website helps parents re-enroll their children, provides learning tools and support and informs parents of the health and safety precautions implemented in schools.
"It's time to get ready for school and the experiences and moments that matter to students and families. Every day, every moment at school matters," Kathy Hoffman, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, said. "Whether it's the first day of kindergarten or senior year, enroll now and get ready for school with us. Let's make this the best year yet."
Public and charter schools are preparing for the fall with a variety of approaches, most offering both in-person and virtual learning.
Elementary students in the Flagstaff Unified School District will have the opportunity to learn with virtual, live instruction, an option that officials added within the last few months.
Mesa Public Schools, Arizona's biggest district, along with Paradise Valley Unified School District, have offered a supplemental online program for twenty years. Mesa's new program, the K-12 Mesa Virtual Campus, will operate more like a traditional school. Paradise Valley's new program, PV Connect, will have dedicated instructors so remote students receive personalized instruction.
Though officials at J.O. Combs Unified School District in Pinal County will offer online-only options in the fall, they anticipate less than 5% of the student body will choose to learn virtually.
Parker Unified School District in rural La Paz County will not be offering an online schooling option. The district saw an 8% drop in enrollment in the 2020-2021 school year. However, most of the district's students returned when school buildings reopened in the spring due to Gov. Ducey's executive order.
Charter network BASIS will also only offer in-person classes.
The number of schools that will not be offering virtual learning options is unclear as the demand for online classes is still unknown.
"Our high-achieving, above grade level curriculum — with world-class teachers — is best suited for in-person delivery," BASIS said in a statement.
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Original Author: Elizabeth Troutman, The Center Square contributor
Original Location: Arizona back-to-school initiative prepares for a post-COVID fall