Not the usual first day back-to-school for Arizona students - AZEdNews
Sections    Friday March 24th, 2023

Not the usual first day back-to-school for Arizona students

A Kayenta Unified School District Student Works On A Computer During Class. Photo By Brooke Razo/ ASBA

The first day back-to-school looks very different for Arizona students than it usually does with many students seeing their friends and connecting with teachers online through videoconferencing.

Earlier this summer many schools asked parents to choose whether they wanted their students to attend classes in-person when the incidence of COVID-19 decreases or if they would like their students to attend school online all year. Most students are starting with online classes, until school districts determine when they can safely bring students and school staff back to campus with help from a data set the Arizona Dept. of Health Services will provide by Aug. 7.

Leticia Padilla’s three children will attend full-time online school this year in Dysart Unified School District because two of them have asthma.

“Even for my daughter that doesn’t have asthma, sending her to school if she picks it up, bringing it back home so now we’re all exposed. That was a major concern,” Padilla said to Fox 10 News. “On the other side of things, we were worried about what are they’re missing out on. They’re missing out on the social interaction with the other kids, just school functions, the classes they’re missing because some classes are not offered.”

For high school students in Dysart Unified School District, remote learning will begin with a split-screen with videoconferencing on one side and the lesson material on the other side, said Michelle Feist, a 9th grade English teacher at Shadow Ridge High School.

Students will work on lessons adapted to online learning or they’ll be working on Florida Virtual lesson material for that particular course on Schoology, Feist said.

A student will go into a subject unit with weeks and dates to find the part of the unit they’re working on, Feist said.

The students might work on part of an interactive workbook online “as the teacher’s talking through or they might be sent off to work 20 minutes on their own,” Feist said.

“Each week the parent will be able to see an agenda for that particular week and what’s coming up,” Feist said.

Each student’s routine each day “will be different from subject to subject, from teacher to teacher and from grade level to grade level,” Feist said.

Learning looks different for students in elementary, middle and high schools.

Brynn Porter, whose children attend Queen Creek Unified School District, said she created a spreadsheet for each of her children, because their learning schedules are different each day.

Higley Unified schools began teaching students online in late July.

“Even though we are starting virtually, we are just as committed to your student’s education here at Cooley Middle School,” said Principal Shawn Varner in a welcome video.

“Students we can’t wait to see your faces on our computer screens, and eventually we can’t wait to see you in person here on the Cooley campus,” Varner said.

Instead of calling out to his friends while passing in the hallway, my middle schooler quickly videochatted with friends he hadn’t seen in months as he moved between classes.

His online learning schedule looks like what it would be if he was on campus.

Not the usual first day back-to-school for Arizona students Middle-School-Schedule-741x1024

He said the knowing what he had to be logged into when and what he needed to be working on right now made it easier to stay on top of than the end of last quarter.

There seemed to be no major technical glitches these first two days, but he said he and his classmates are always ready to help teachers troubleshoot if they need it.

While he misses hanging out with friends at lunch and before school, he said he understands they’re doing online learning to stay healthy.

To help her middle school science students, one Peoria teacher sent science kits to all of her students.

Some elementary students may have faced challenges navigating new-to-them online learning systems, but many school districts factored in extra time this week for teachers to help young students adjust to their new school routine.

“The kids are so resilient and they just have that intrinsic motivation to learn,” Amy Hopkins, a first-grade teacher in Apache Junction Unified School District told Fox 10 News Phoenix.

Elementary teachers created daily and weekly agendas for students to make it easier for them to navigate online, said Dr. Kelly Smith, director of K-8 curriculum for Florence Unified School District.

Online learning is different that in-classroom learning, and it’s important to let teachers know if your child is overwhelmed with the work or if your child needs to be challenged a little bit more, Dr. Smith said.

She also let parents know that students with disabilities will meet with their special education teachers and receive services online.

Students with disabilities who can’t access online learning, will have service appointments with Chandler Unified School District special education teachers following U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines, Terry Locke, district spokesman told The Arizona Republic.

While many schools have already started, some will begin online learning later this week.

In Deer Valley Unified School District, students and families pick up their school supplies and curriculum today and tomorrow.