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Ash Fork, Parks, Heritage schools set for remote, in-person learning

Ash Fork Unified School District has begun remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

Ash Fork Unified School District has begun remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — Gov. Doug Ducey announced that all Arizona schools need to resume learning by the first day of their traditional instructional year, however, how schools go about that has been left up to individual districts.

Schools are also required to provide 180 days of instruction or equivalent hours, whether a family chooses to do so in person or via distance learning.

The Arizona Department of Health Services has been directed to develop school-reopening benchmarks based on public health data to be shared with schools and school boards by Aug. 7, which could alter the way schools reopen.

In the Williams-Grand Canyon area, rural schools have varied in their response to begin the 2020-2021 school year.

Ash Fork

Ash Fork Unified School District has had a year-round approach to learning over the past few years and began online learning July 22. The school plans to resume in-person learning Aug. 17.

The school plans to heavily screen students prior to entering the buses and buildings on the campus in hopes to keep in-person school learning as close to normal as possible, according to the district’s reopening plan.

This includes the use of masks and hand sanitizer on buses and prior to entry into the school, temperature checks and supervised social distancing.

“One of the best opportunities to keep everyone safe is to stop any unhealthy individuals from getting on the buses or getting on campus,” said Superintendent Seth Staples in a letter to parents. “The goal is for the school day to have a closer resemblance to, well school, due to our efforts to screen all individuals before entering campus we hope this will be possible.”

Maine Consolidated

Maine Consolidated School District, a K-8 school in Parks, plans to begin remote and in-person learning beginning Aug. 17. The school typically has small class sizes in a wide-spread campus.

“The State of Arizona and the CDC are in the process of issuing school guidance for re-opening,” said Superintendent Mark Williams in a letter to parents. “MCSD is using those guidelines to address needed issues or concerns to allow a smooth re-opening of school.”

Heritage Elementary

Heritage Charter School begins the school year Aug. 4 with distance learning. The school plans to return to in-person learning Aug. 17.

“But that could be changed after the benchmarks are announced Aug. 7,” said Principal Kaytie Dannenberger. “If our area isn’t meeting the benchmarks, we will continue online until we have met the benchmarks.”

Dannenberger said once the school returns to in-person learning, families will still have the option to continue distance online learning.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Unified School District based its reopening date on a parent survey. The school gave parents the option of beginning school Aug. 7 or Sept. 8. Thirty-five parents advocated for an opening of Aug. 17, and 98 selected Sept. 8.

The school is offering three options for parents which include full-time distance learning, two-days at home and two-days at school, or full-time in-person classes.

“GCUSD will work with parents to develop a plan for success for any student that this plan does not accommodate,” said Grand Canyon School Principal Matt Yost.

Verde Valley

Camp Verde and Beaver Creek schools opened their virtual doors Aug. 3 and Cottonwood-Oak Creek Aug. 5. Mingus Union will begin remote classes Aug. 6 and Clarkdale-Jerome Aug. 10.

At Mingus Union and Camp Verde, the districts are using Edgenuity as their online education platform.

Students are expected to spend at least four hours each school day, but may choose when they want to work.

Bill Helm of the Camp Verde Tribune contributed to this story.

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