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Tue, June 02

But what about the kids? School closures lead to challenges for Williams administrators

Williams Unified School District Superintendent Rick Honsinger and Williams High School Principal Eric Evans deliver food for curb-side pick up at Williams Elementary-Middle School March 26. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

Williams Unified School District Superintendent Rick Honsinger and Williams High School Principal Eric Evans deliver food for curb-side pick up at Williams Elementary-Middle School March 26. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — As some Arizona schools move to distance learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Williams Unified School District and Heritage Charter School are concerned with how they can reach the nearly 700 children scattered around the greater Williams area following Gov. Doug Ducey’s announcement that all public schools in Arizona will remain closed through the end of the school year.

“Parents are already asking us what they can do for their children,” said Williams Unified School District Superintendent Rick Honsinger.

Continued learning is a concern for the district and the Arizona Department of Education has required schools to provide learning opportunities for students. However, providing grades or other punitive measures isn’t allowed.

“It’s pretty clear you can’t hold kids accountable when schools are closed,” Honsinger said. “I would assume parents and students are getting tired of watching TV and playing video games.”

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Williams Unified School District Superintendent Rick Honsinger, bus driver George Ortero and Williams Elementary-Middle School Principal Carissa Morrison deliver food and homework to students March 26. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

Administrators are concerned with the lack of internet in some homes and the availability of technology, which will limit the educational opportunities for students.

There’s also the concern of how teachers can shift from an in-person interactive system to one that’s at a distance, when few have had that type of training.

“Our teachers have some great ideas,” Honsinger said. “The problem with our area and probably a lot of rural areas is the lack of internet access by a lot of students.”

WUSD and Heritage Charter School recently began providing take-home meals and delivery of meals to rural students. Administrators at WUSD said 400 meals were distributed to families March 26.

“We are going to distribute homework along with meals next week,” Honsinger said.

Heritage Charter School is also reaching out to students through their messaging board and email system.

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Jose and Mia Mirales pick up lunches at Williams Elementary-Middle School March 26. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

“We are committed to continuing the learning process and will do everything we can to help assist during these difficult times,” said Heritage Principal Kaytie Dannenberger in a letter to families. “Our hope is that we will be able to return back to school soon and that you and your family are healthy and safe.

Honsinger said each week changes and WUSD is following the guidance of the state.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” Honsinger said. “We can guess and second guess but all we can really do is be a part of the big plan and listen to our leaders and the county and state levels and participate how they suggest.”

As of now, all school activities including Prom, graduation, AZ Merit testing and all sporting events have been cancelled.

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Tara Lowe, Carissa Morrison and George Ortero bring take-home food to parents March 26. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

“I feel for those seniors, missing out on their senior year is the worst,” Honsinger said.

WUSD governing board member Herman Nixon echoed Honsinger with his concern for the older students.

“A lot of things are secondary like baseball, softball, golf and battle bots, but I know those are things those kids look forward to at the high school,” he said. “I feel so bad for those kids, and I feel bad for those seniors that won’t be able to walk across the stage.”

At the elementary ages, teachers and staff have stepped up to reach students through social media. Each night a different teacher reads a story and posts it on the WUSD website and social media pages.

“We want our students to stay educated, stay focused and continue learning,” Nixon said. “But a lot of that is on the student and parent right now. We are hoping that they are doing that. Right now its an honor system and we don’t know where we will be next week.”

Nixon said school administrators and staff will meet this week to develop an educational plan for the district’s students.

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