As the school year has already started for some school districts and is about to start for many others, administrators must be prepared for various scenarios imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic that they may encounter in the first weeks of reopening schools.
Lisa Anderson, associate superintendent for the Yuma Union High School District in Arizona, says she is focused on seven priorities since the schools in the district reopened on Aug. 6:
- Making contact all students and their families
- Engaging with families
- Checking if students and families are OK, or if they have needs the school can meet
- Ensuring that, regardless of students’ and families’ needs, they are adjusting to the district’s distance learning plan
- Getting students are engaged in distance learning
- Providing students in need with access to the internet and hot spots
- Making sure teachers have the professional development and tools they need to teach remotely
“We are really about developing relationships with the students and providing support with technology for them,” says Anderson. “Likewise, as a district team for our teachers, we are building their courses on our learning management system.”
The Yuma Union High School District serves 11,000 students in seven schools, all of which all are Title I and provide reduced and free lunch for 100 percent of the students; 8.7% were English learners for SY 2019-20.
Anderson says that the district adopted distance learning as its instructional model to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but also noted that the state’s plan includes reevaluating where the districts are in terms of case numbers of the disease.
“We are right now under an executive order from the governor. He wants us to start in-person instruction on Aug. 17,” she says. “It’s my understanding that the state is creating benchmarks for schools reopening. So, they say you have to be under 5%. If you are not near that, then we would have to stay distance learning until we are near their metric.”
As the district prepares for the possibility of transitioning to an in-person learning model, Anderson points out that it has been using its share of the CARES Act funds to make sure all the facilities have enough personal protective equipment such as masks, wipes, sneeze guards and signage.
“We have schools with a student body from 1,200 to 2,800 students,” she says. “So, it’s really about the safety of everybody coming back and being able to follow the CDC guidelines of social distancing, wearing face masks, and things like that.”
Claude Bornel covers ELs and other Title I issues for TitleIAdmin.com, a DA sister publication.