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Grand Canyon School remains vigilant in face of virus
Remote learning to continue through Jan. 28

Grand Canyon School serves Kindergarten through twelfth grade students in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. (Abigail Kessler/WGCN)

Grand Canyon School serves Kindergarten through twelfth grade students in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. (Abigail Kessler/WGCN)

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — Grand Canyon School continues to monitor the rise and fall of coronavirus cases as they make decisions about whether or not to return to in person instruction.

“Nobody has been through this situation before and we are uniquely, unique,” said Grand Canyon School Principal Matt Yost.

On Nov. 2, Grand Canyon School Governing Board decided to continue online learning through the remainder of the semester, which ends Jan. 28. At that time, the school will reassess to determine if remote learning will continue.

At the end of the 2019-2020 school year Yost said parents were uncertain if they would want their child to return to in-person learning.

“More than half of our students, probably close to 55-60 percent of our students weren’t going to come back to school in August,” Yost said.

The reminder were split between in-person learning and a hybrid model.

In August, the school conducted additional surveys that offered several start date options, based on state guidance for schools and coronavirus outlooks. Based on the results of these surveys and other factors, Grand Canyon School decided to begin remote learning Sept. 8.

Grand Canyon School Superintendent Shonny Bria said despite the challenges caused by the virus, enrollment has remained steady at 260 students. Last year Grand Canyon School had 287 students enrolled in Kindergarten – twelfth grade.

“I am really pleased with our enrollment, because I thought we were really going to lose a lot more students,” Bria said. “I thought we were going to open with about 220-230 students because COVID-19 has really shut down the park… it has been very satisfying to have as many kids as we have.”

Bria attributes part of this success to the staff and faculty at the school, especially Yost.

“I attribute a lot of that to Matt,” she said. “I think that Matt, keeping his eye on the ball has really helped and it has given a lot of the community confidence that we care about our students and their health.”

Grand Canyon School is using three forms of data to evaluate whether or not to open for in-person instruction.

The criteria Grand Canyon School is following is set by the Governor’s Office, the Arizona Department of Education and the Arizona Department of Health Services for the safe opening of in-person learning and are based on the following:

• Cases: a two week decline in the number of cases or two weeks with new case rates below 100 per 100,000

• Percent positivity: two weeks with less than 7 percent positivity

• COVID-like illness syndromic surveillance: two weeks with hospital visits because of COVID-like illness below 10 percent.

The week of Oct. 24 data showed 120.7 cases per 100,000 with percent positivity at 2.7 percent.

For the week ending Oct. 31, data showed 40.2 cases per 100,000 with a 12.5 percent positivity.

The Coconino County Schools Report showed the Grand Canyon and Tusayan areas as being in the “substantial” community spread zone for both case case rate and percent positivity.

“The governor set up some parameters. There are three forms of data that we’re looking at and basically if we’re not in the green — the go range, we’re hesitating because we really don’t want to put any of our children in a situation that would harm them,” Bria said. “So we have been looking at the metrics very, very closely.”

The school is offering on site support services to around 25 students at the school.

This in-person service was mandated by Gov. Doug Ducey and includes special education students, ELL students and those who may be homeless or who have been placed in foster care and children of essential workers.

“That way, they have a safe, supportive environment,” Yost said. “We have purchased Chromebooks for all of our students… we provide headphones for students who want them. The onsite support is in the library and the elementary classroom — students are physically distanced, they’re working on their distance learning material and there’s an adult in the room to support them.”

Yost said the school will continue to offer as much support as they can to parents and students and will provide information and updates to current decisions as they become available.

“We want the community to know that we want to be very supportive, we also want to make sure we’re protecting students and teachers,” Yost said. “We’re trying to figure out the best method to support all of our students and families.”

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