ASBA message to board members on reopening schools - AZEdNews
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ASBA message to board members on reopening schools

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  • Heidi Otero   |   Arizona School Boards Association


Dear ASBA Members,

Reopening schools is a task that is as complex as they come and you, as a board member, may be wondering how you fit into the planning process. It’s a good question and, because we have never faced anything like this before, Arizona School Boards Association is here to support and advocate for our member district boards as you consider the reopening plans being presented by superintendents and district staff.  

ASBA continues to update and inform members by partnering with staff from the Department of Health Services and Arizona Department of Education on various webinars, which have reached over 4,000 attendees in the last two months, for school districts to use in determining readiness for opening campuses for the 2020-2021 school year and the health protocols. ASBA was proud to represent Arizona’s school boards on the task force and continues to be part of the conversation with the governor’s office and state representatives.  

It’s important we prioritize the safety of our students and educators and make decisions using indicators by our state and local health officials.  

We acknowledge that circumstances are different in different parts of the state and encourage our members to advocate for their local communities, as they know best what is needed on behalf of their students, staff and families. Please remember you are a collaborator with the rest of the board, and you and your administration should engage in those discussions with the following in mind: You are one voice. The board collectively has the authority and to keep an open mind for new information coming from your fellow board members and the administration.  

It is crucial that, in addition to respecting the medical and scientific community, we respect our educational professionals and the process. If a rigorous process with full staff participation resulted in thoughtful, defensible recommendations, individual board members should respect that process and ask questions and give careful comment while giving respect to those credentialed, qualified individuals who have put a lot of thought into any plans. View five things board members should consider by clicking here.

We also understand the concerns many of our board members currently have on issues from health and safety to funding. ASBA continues to push state leaders, including the governor’s office, to develop a plan for school reopening that is informed by public health and safety first. This includes clear metrics outlined by state public health officials that indicate when it is appropriate to resume in-person instruction in various areas of the state, depending on local conditions. How exactly instruction is resumed is best left to local boards to decide based on what works best for their students. 

Further, local health officials, working with school districts, must be empowered to decide that closing a school temporarily and returning to distance learning is in the best interest of maintaining student and staff safety, without penalty. 

Local control is a core value of ASBA, and decisions at the student level must be made locally. There are times, however, when a framework to ensure a standard approach to managing risk is helpful. 

ASBA has been working since schools closed in March to secure a needed level of funding for schools in case an unusual decline in enrollment occurs. As various plans have been rolled out, including Executive Orders and Enrollment stability grants, ASBA staff have been working through those details with an eye toward preserving maximum flexibility and providing direction where needed. 

We are acutely aware that each phase of school reopening, whenever it arrives, comes with more questions. Some of those need to be answered by state policy. Many of them will be decided at the board table. But where we can, ASBA is pushing to provide as much certainty and predictability as possible in chaotic and unpredictable times to aid our members in making the best decisions possible. 

 Your ASBA Team