Scottsdale schools begin planning next year’s education experience amid pandemic

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With the school year coming to a close and students taking their summer vacations, the next school year seems so far away but planning how schools will adapt to learning in the time of the coronavirus is just taking off.

Recently, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University released plans for the fall semester. Students can return to campus but with added precautions and restrictions to accommodate for physical distancing guidelines.

This announcement comes early as local public schools are still awaiting direction from their local districts. In Scottsdale, no formal plan has been released and teachers and students are still waiting to see what their future will hold.

Becky Williams, a Scottsdale teacher and 2020-21 president of the Scottsdale Education Association, says some district-level work is going on but no set plans have been put in place in terms of classroom planning.

“Right now it’s in the planning stages and there are some subcommittees that are looking at all the possible scenarios, and how to fulfill those scenarios with the needs of our students in mind [and] with the needs of our families in mind,” Ms. Williams said.

With a lot of these decisions still up in the air, it’s become difficult for teachers to start preparing for next year in terms of their classroom plans. As an educator herself, Ms. Williams has experienced the difficulty of adapting to the online classroom and misses a lot of those human connections much like her students do as well.

“You can’t teach students if they don’t have a relational buy-in and that rapport,” she said.

Having those face-to-face connections makes both the teachers and the students feel better. Being online has made it more difficult to connect with each other; however, this upcoming semester would be even more so having never met these students in person before. After the last few weeks of school though, Ms. Williams is hopeful.

“We’re trying to take a look at what works and what doesn’t and how we can make things better if we have to go to an online model and go from there,” she said.

In the next year, Ms. Williams says she will be transitioning from her positions as a kindergarten teacher to a sixth-grade science teacher at a new school. This new role comes with new obstacles as the course is typically more hands-on with a lot of communal equipment to share.

“How do you structure the meaningful hands-on learning without being able to work in a closely structured group with shared material?” she said.

Ms. Williams is not alone in this struggle. A lot of teachers are having difficulties deciding how they’re going to make their classes work when they typically require a lot of personal close up interactions.

For Carmen Simpson, a PE teacher at Yavapai Elementary School, she’s been thinking about having the school gym function with increased sanitation measures and proper physical distancing efforts.

“I guess this is just another lifestyle, right?” Ms. Simpson said. “It’s just the way of life.”

Along with those recommendations, reducing shared equipment has also been discussed at schoolwide meetings. Like Ms. Williams, nothing has really been set in stone about how they will actually proceed but the ball is rolling for thinking about how they will likely need to adjust to the “new normal.”

“My hope is we can get back to a normal and collaborative classroom that just has social distancing standards and sanitation like a gym [would],” Ms. Simpson said.

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