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WUSD begins 2020-2021 school year Aug. 10 with remote learning

The Williams Unified School District office building. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

The Williams Unified School District office building. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — Students in Williams can gear up for a new school year as Williams Unified School District has announced Aug. 10 as the first day of school.

Although school officially begins on that date, classes will be online because of Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order restricting in-person classes until after Aug. 17.

The Williams Unified School District Governing Board met several times over the past month to iron-out a reopening plan to ensure the safety of students and teachers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We need to give parents, students and teachers some idea of what we’re going to do,” said governing board member Herman Nixon at the July 8 meeting.

Williams Unified School District Superintendent Rick Honsinger told the governing board he believed beginning the school year Aug. 10 online was better than waiting to begin the year Aug. 17.

“I don’t want to chase this Aug. 17 date as it changes,” Honsinger said. “If we start Aug. 10 and the in-school date keeps getting pushed back by the state, then we have at least already started.”

The district plans to offer in-person, online or hybrid classes Aug. 17.

“If the physical opening is delayed by the state, we have no options, we have to follow the state,” said board member Ann Wells. “We don’t have any control over that, but do we have control over the tenth.”

Although the board anticipates problems with connectivity issues, administrators decided to make online school required for all enrolled students

“I heard from numerous parents how when they heard the work wasn’t mandatory, it wasn’t worth the fight anymore to get them (students) to do it,” Nixon said about the district’s previous efforts for remote learning. “The truth is that if the work doesn’t count for anything, most aren’t going to do it.”

The district plans to acquire internet hot spots and chrome books for students to use for online learning, and plans to work with those families who are unable to connect online.

Board members acknowledged the difficulty in acquiring the technology needed before the Aug. 10 start date.

“We may not have this available at registration,” Honsinger said. “All the districts are going to be trying to get these.”

Despite the first week being online-only learning, WUSD administrators and teachers are giving families options for learning throughout the school year. This includes online, in-person or a hybrid method of learning.

Administrators and teachers are reaching out to families to determine which method they prefer.

“It will be nice to start this online the first week just to see what kinds of problems we are going to run into such as the hotspots not working, kids aren’t logging on or a teacher’s computer doesn’t work. We can get the kinks worked out,” Honsinger said.

The approved reopening plan outlines learning and safety measures to be taken under the three different scenarios.

When the district begins in-person learning, parents will be asked to monitor their student’s health and protocols are in place for handling a classroom where a student tests positive.

The plan details procedures staff will undertake if a student exhibits coronavirus symptoms, which include contact tracing.

The schools plan to hire additional custodial staff to provide a rigorous sanitation schedule. Drinking fountains will be turned off and students encouraged to bring their own bottles to use at the refillable stations.

Two additional handwashing stations will be installed at Williams Elementary-Middle School and younger students will be observed washing hands. Each classroom will have hand sanitizer pumps and additional pumps will be installed in the hallways.

Classrooms will limit sharing of supplies and devices, and arrange students with social distancing considerations. Students will face the same direction in the classroom and follow a hallway one-way traffic pattern.

Masks will not be required, but administrators will not discourage their use.

Families will need to register before July 27 by going to WUSD2.org to download packets, or by stopping by Williams Elementary-Middle School for the paperwork. The school is open Monday – Thursday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Williams High School students can register in person at the high school July 22 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and July 23 from noon to 5 p.m. All students, whether learning online or in person need to register.

More information is available by calling Williams Elementary-Middle School at (928) 635-4672 or Williams High School at (928) 635-4474.

The complete reopening plan, online instruction plan and superintendent letter to parents can be found at wusd2.org.

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