Arizona school principals face a plethora of unexpected challenges as they scramble to begin the new school year.
School Connect has gleaned consensus around the top priorities that range from internet connection for students and teachers, to personal protective equipment supplies, to ramped-up appreciation of teachers.
Following dozens of conversations throughout the month of July, School Connect has identified the top 5 needs of Arizona schools as expressed by principals. They are:
- Technology and internet connection for students and teachers to accommodate remote learning requirements; estimates indicate over 200,000 Arizona students do not have devices and/or reliable internet connection
- School supplies for students and classrooms in response to U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines that require students to have their own supplies, no longer sharing freely
- Social-emotional support resources for students, teachers and parents struggling to navigate the emotional impacts of the changing educational and economic environment
- PPE – Personal protective equipment to protect the health of students, teachers and administrators when meeting in person
- “Teacher Love” – Concerned about increasing demands and unexpected stresses put on classroom teachers, principals express the need to ramp-up appreciation of teachers
“Principals are facing many new challenges brought on by the global pandemic,” said Tracey Beal, executive director of School Connect.
“The initial closing of schools back in March brought into the spotlight the gaping reality of the digital divide,” Beal said.
“School Connect responded by engaging with both the Department of Education and the Commerce Authority’s statewide broadband task forces,” Beal said. “We have newfound hope that solutions for effective distance learning are being identified and acted upon.”
School Connect Operations Consultant, Tim Tiller has been working with Beal to tackle the need for PPE and school supplies.
“With continuing concern about spread of COVID and the complications that come with putting kids back into classrooms, we have established a source for wholesale PPE supplies that will protect kids, teachers, and really everyone in the school environment,” Tiller said.
Partnering with a generous philanthropist who established Mask on Every Face, PPE is steeply discounted for Arizona school districts.
Resourcing wholesale learning materials such as pens, pencils, crayons, markers and paper is in the works now.
“We are working to address the need and expect to have more affordable options in place very soon,” Tiller said.
The challenge of teacher retention in Arizona schools has been an ongoing concern due to a variety of factors that cause excessive turnover from year to year.
This problem is exacerbated with the added stresses that come from teaching virtually, new hygiene protocols, and classroom management.
Jill Sarraino, Principal of Mountain View Elementary School in north Phoenix sums it up, “Our teachers turned on a dime to manage online learning in the spring while addressing hunger, internet and computers for their students. We need to show them love and appreciation!”
Beal, whose professional background includes pastoral work in outreach to struggling populations, is especially concerned about ensuring the emotional well-being of students, their parents, teachers and administrators.
“There is no question that the changing environment due to COVID is taxing on people throughout the world,” Beal said. ” I don’t think anyone is immune to the unprecedented challenges being faced because of social distancing. “
“Everyone wants to get kids back into classrooms,” Beal said. ” We want to help ensure schools get the support they need to make it the safest possible environment.”
School Connect, Inc. is an Arizona based 501c3 nonprofit organization governed by a volunteer board of directors. Its mission is to connect schools to their surrounding community because it takes a village for every child to reach their potential.
- Technology and internet – School Connect works with Computers 2 Kids to provide quality Lenovo laptops with MS Office and free tech support for $110 each. Donations can be made by visiting https://www.schoolconnectaz.org/corona-virus-support
- Student and Teachers supplies – Donate grade-level backpacks filled with student supplies or teacher classroom supplies, visit www.schoolconnectaz.org.
- Social-emotional support resources can be found at:
- Schools can access PPE at wholesale prices by visiting: https://store.schoolconnectaz.org
- Teacher love can be expressed in many ways. Write a personal note of thanks and send to your local school, or reach out to your school parent/teacher organization.
More can be found at www.schoolconnectaz.org, or by calling Executive Director Tracey Beal at 480-608-5675.