MESA, Ariz. — Mesa Public Schools released its initial plan for the 2020-2021 school year Thursday afternoon amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The district is the largest in Arizona serving more than 60,000 students in the East Valley.
The initial plan laid out by the Mesa Public Schools has three options for students from PreK through grade 12 to return to school: in-person, modified in-person, and remote learning.
All three of the options allow students to change to another model, participate in extracurricular activities, and all students will get a district-provided laptop.
“We know we are a very diverse community and we know that one size will not fit all,” incoming Superintendent Dr. Andi Fourlis said.
Fourlis replaces Dr. Ember Conley who resigned after the school board abruptly placed her on administrative leave in November.
“I think that the most important work that I have is to bring our school district together," Fourlis said.
"We are going to emerge from all of this, whether it’s a pandemic or a controversy, we are going to emerge smarter and stronger than we ever have before."
Fourlis said the district has had a task force of 170 teachers, administrators, community members and parents working on the plans to ensure students and staff are safe to return.
“Education cannot stop,” Fourlis said.
The district’s plan to issue students a district-provided laptop will also help continue learning should the state close schools again.
“We know that it’s important that we’re preparing for lots of different scenarios,” Fourlis said.
According to the district’s plan, students attending the in-person and modified in-person models may be required to wear a face covering. Mesa Mayor John Giles has announced he plans to issue a proclamation requiring mask-use in the city.
“I’d like the order to emphasize wearing masks in indoor public situations where physical distancing is impractical, which is consistent with current CDC guidelines,” Giles said in a social media post on Thursday.
The district’s in-person model would continue with a 5-day school week with physical distancing and additional cleaning measures. According to the plan, elementary classes would stay together and recess and materials would not be shared at school.
Modified in-person model
For the modified in-person model Fourlis said it’s expected that students will spend half their time in-person and the other half of their learning time remote learning. Fourlis said what exactly the in-person hours will look like has yet to be decided, but could include ideas like alternating days on campus or spending the morning or afternoon in-person learning and the other half of the day remote learning.
Remote learning model
The remote learning model would be run through the Mesa Distance Learning Program and be available for students in kindergarten through grade 12. The plan states virtual “specials” would also be available for students in kindergarten through sixth grade, and special education will be working with families to schedule required therapies.
Fourlis said the district is still working out details in each of the plans and said a final plan is set to be released July 14 ahead of the first day of school on August 4.
"Those three different models will help us to gauge what is the interest of our families and what is the interest of our staff? And then we need to make some matches for what those plans will look like as we open August 4," Fourlis said.
To read additional details of Mesa Public Schools initial return-to-school plan, click here.