Arizona Department of Education Releases Guidelines On How To Safely Reopen Public Schools

On Monday, the Arizona Department of Education guidelines for all Arizona public schools on how exactly to reopen safely after the coronavirus pandemic closures.

“Because experts are continuing to learn more about COVID-19 and the conditions surrounding the crisis are continually evolving, this guidance will likely change, be amended or augmented,” the document reads.

Roadmap for Reopening Schools,” were put together by a collective task force that included teachers, principals, school nurses, superintendents and charter school leaders.

The guidelines gives parents a first glimpse of how schools could change operations during the new school year to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The guidelines does not specific if the school districts will be given funding to pay for the necessary additional resources such as cleaning materials. Last week, Governor Doug Ducey mentioned in a press conference that federal COVID-19 relief dollars the state received could be used to cover some of the school expenses.

“Each [school] should use this document as a guide and consult with district or school counsel and all relevant stakeholders to determine which
procedures the [school] is able to address and the best way to proceed,” the document states.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released the same guidelines for schools that recommends older students and staff wear face masks, especially when physical distancing is a challenge. The guidelines specify that face masks should not be placed on students with certain disabilities or health conditions.

As standard, the guidelines request that students and staff stay home if they test positive for COVID-19 or if they’re experiencing any symptoms. Families should self-report symptoms and school staff should visually check for symptoms, which could include doing temperature checks.

In the classroom, to encourage social distancing, desks should be 6 feet apart and face the same direction. If students are sitting on a table, they should sit on only one side and be spaced out.

It is also recommended that schools should reduce class sizes to allow more physical space between students. This suggestion may be a challenge as Arizona has some of the largest class sizes in the country. It is also recommended that schools place tape on the floors or sidewalks and create “one way routes” in the hallways to remind students to stay 6 feet apart.

In certain areas or situations where physical distancing isn’t possible, the document states barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions should be installed.

A major change that schools could see is lunchtime. The document details how  students should eat meals in the classrooms instead of the cafeteria. Students will see be permitted to use playgrounds, with the stipulation they do so in small groups and the playground equipment is disinfected between uses.

School transportation is also being addressed. Buses should allow for one student to sit per row, and if possible rows should be skipped. Buses should also be cleaned daily or between use.

The guidelines states schools should provide adequate hygiene supplies, such as soap, hand sanitizer, paper towels and disinfectant wipes. They will be required to clean and disinfect surfaces touched frequently, such as drinking fountains and door handles.

In addition, the document calls for public schools “will need to plan flexible instructional models that provide for groups of students to learn remotely while also remaining connected to their school, teachers, and friends.”

“Remote learning should carry the expectation of providing commensurate learning outcomes for students whose peers attend in person at school,” the document adds.

Last week the governor announced that schools will be able to reopen safely for the next academic year, however the Arizona Department of Education document recommends schools come up with a plan for “the possibility of future short-notice school closures.”

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