After an overwhelming response from stakeholders, the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board has determined the best-case scenario for students to “Return to Learn.”
SUSD leaders decided unanimously on Thursday, July 9 to not only accept two back-to-school options for SUSD families, but to delay on-campus returns until at least Sept. 8, a day after Labor Day, if in-person presence will be permitted by then.
“The feedback that we had has been significant,” said SUSD Superintendent Dr. Scott Menzel, noting that more than 600 conversations followed the July 7 meeting.
“All that input has been taken into consideration as we consider all the recommendations.”
Since district officials received lots of input and concerns, he said a Frequently Asked Questions page will be created and possibly released within the next week.
He encouraged continuing communications through phone calls, social media, and directed the SUSD community to check out the new “Let’s Talk” link, which enables participants to exchange thoughts in real time.
Likewise, Dr. Menzel noted the concerns from parents, teachers, counselors and principals about complications involved with the Hybrid class structure proposed earlier in the week that would be troublesome for families and staff.
One of three options initially drafted for students to enroll in for the upcoming 2020-21 school year, the lack of interest for the hybrid model of learning that combined on-campus instruction with distance learning was eliminated from consideration by district leaders.
“All of this to say that as much as there was interest in looking at a hybrid model ... It actually doesn’t make sense to move forward with this as an option at this time. The recommendation is modified based on the feedback that we received,” Dr. Menzel said.
“R.I.P Hybrid,” stated Barbara Perleberg, SUSD board member as she complimented efforts of the “very impressive group” that she said was ready for the challenge.
“We want people to make informed decisions,” said Dr. Kimberly Guerin, assistant superintendent of SUSD Education Services. “What we heard loud and clear is consistency.”
Despite the initial “Return to Learn Plan” --- crafted by the district’s Incident Command System under Dr. Milissa Sackos, assistant superintendent of SUSD Secondary Education, and three subcommittees comprised of teachers, parents, SUSD officials --- she maintained that safety, consistency, continuity were important to resume school in addition to assessing and remediating students upon return.
While Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s executive orders to delay reopening school campuses until Aug. 17, SUSD will begin its school year on time Aug. 10 for students to participate in a virtual, enhanced distance-learning program taught by certified district teachers until public health conditions permit students opting for on-campus learning to return to school buildings.
Meanwhile, SUSD students attending any of the 28 schools will soon be asked to choose from two instructional options:
While dates are being set and classes structured, the current circumstances surrounding COVID-19 still dictate a high-level of fluidity as information changes by the moment.
“We are in the business of educating students and we want to do that in a way that they deserve,” Dr. Menzel said.
Adding that the goal is to reach students’ full potential, develop guidelines, minimize disruption in an already disruptive climate, Dr. Menzel reminded those asking health-related questions that he has a “doctorate in education and not public health.”
He reiterated the district’s job to ensure educating students and being “nimble and flexible,” during the uncertain times that require being flexible plus showing compassion and concern with staff and accommodating those with legitimate health issues.
He said 350 teachers have already submitted requests for accommodation to work remotely.
“There is a lot of unknowns,” said Dr. Menzel, adding that he has a daughter with health issues and if she were still in grade school that he would select online classes for her safety.