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Thu, April 15

Spring sports get green light at Grand Canyon School
Governing board plans for March 22 hybrid reopening

As Grand Canyon School prepares for winter break, governing board members discussed potential learning options for the spring semester. (Abigail Kessler/WGCN)

As Grand Canyon School prepares for winter break, governing board members discussed potential learning options for the spring semester. (Abigail Kessler/WGCN)

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — On March 3, the Grand Canyon School District Governing Board (GCSGB) held another special meeting in which they continued discussions for a March 22 hybrid reopening plan and approved the 2020-2021 spring sports season.

The board approved plans to go ahead with both high school track and field and middle school volleyball.

Even though the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) recently lifted a requirement for students to remain masked while competing, Grand Canyon School plans to have their athletes continue to wear masks.

The AIA Executive Board approved the removal of the in-competition mask mandate for the start of the winter sports playoffs and all of the spring sports season. AIA still has a number of safety measures in place, including outdoor practice, masks for anyone not currently on the field and a limited number of spectators.

For track and field, school athletics director Cyndi Moreno said fewer schools will be allowed to participate in each meet. She said this helps reduce the potential to spread COVID-19, but means it may be more difficult for the school to find meets to join.

Despite the changes, Moreno was optimistic about the coming season.

“We just really want to keep everyone as safe as possible,” she said. “I think students are really ready for this extracurricular and for us as teachers a lot of times it motivates the students. I appreciate all the support I’m hearing.”

Reopening plans set for March 22

The board also discussed, in further detail, their planned move to hybrid instruction for all students March 22.

Shortly before the meeting, Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order requiring schools to be open for in-person instruction by March 15, or the 22 if the earlier date falls during spring break.

Previously, the decision of whether to return to in-person learning had been left to individual school districts.

In counties where the transmission rate is still listed as “high’’ — including Pinal, Yavapai and Coconino — there is no mandate for in-person instruction for middle and high schools.

But the governor said that should not be taken as a license to simply continue with online instruction. And his order says that schools in those counties that already are open “shall remain open and strictly implement mitigation strategies.’’

“CDC is clear that there is a safe pathway if they implement proper mitigation strategies,’’ Ducey said.

Because there was so little time between the executive order and the board’s scheduled meeting, the clarifications and interpretations that usually follow executive orders had not occurred.

GCSGB had voted in February to set March 22 as a tentative reopening date for hybrid learning, provided all metrics were met.

“The guidance in Gov. Ducey’s prepared statement was very clear that he wants parents or guardians to have the option to return to in-person,” said Grand Canyon School Legal Counsel Tosca Henry. “But again the big question mark is, ‘Does the actual order allow for that in-person to be on a hybrid model?’”

Because of current metrics, that question largely concerns the elementary school.

The board decided to continue with current plans to reopen for hybrid learning March 22 and scheduled another special meeting March 17 to further discuss the decision.

More information on school reopening plans can be found at grandcanyonschool.org.

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