Dear Parents and Guardians,
In moving forward with our plans to safely and responsibly reopen our schools for the 2020-2021 school year, it is a priority for us to ensure that our educational stakeholders are included in the process. It has been challenging to find options that will adequately accommodate all Crane family and educator needs. At this time, there is no perfect plan, however, we want to emphasize that the models we’ve chosen are fluid and adaptable. Our ultimate goal is to transition to the traditional educational format to which we are accustomed when we can do so in a safe manner, in accordance with CDC guidelines and White House Gating Protocol.
“OPENING UP AMERICA AGAIN”
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey is following the gating criteria proposed in the “Opening Up America” plan issued by the White House. It is a three-phased approach to reopen states based on the advice of public health experts.
The criteria states that a region should demonstrate a downward trajectory of COVID-19 or influenza-like symptoms over a 14-day period. Arizona has increased testing but has also seen an exponential rise in cases which results in an unfavorable trajectory since the Stay-at-Home order was lifted on May 15th. The schools in Yuma do not currently satisfy those parameters as cases in our county have increased. Nevertheless, Arizona schools have been tasked with finding viable solutions to begin the school session in the fall in an effort to reopen the economy.
On June 16th, we presented 3 instruction options to the Crane Governing Board in a special work session. Since then, we have refined our plans as we’ve been able to consider valuable feedback from principals, management teams, and data provided by state and county healthcare organizations. We have also been able to compare our proposed plans with districts across the state, many of which have devised similar instructional structures to the ones we’ve proposed. The Crane Elementary School District has the advantage and benefit of the Crane iLearning Academy, an established online learning program that has been successful with students and families, and is equipped to offer a quality online learning experience. It will now be available to students in grades K-8.
CONSIDERATIONS IN RULING OUT THE TRADITIONAL FORMAT
The safety and wellbeing of our students is at the forefront of our decision-making. We could not in good conscience return to school in the traditional sense based on information we’ve received about the state of the pandemic in Yuma County.
- The Yuma County Health District mirrors statewide data illustrating an upward surge in COVID-19 cases. As of 3 p.m. on June 23rd, Yuma County has reported 4,756 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
- Yuma Regional Medical Center implemented a 3-tiered capacity plan in March to accommodate the higher volume of COVID-19 cases. YRMC has now reported that they have reached Tier 3 which means they’ve had to add additional staffing support and temporarily suspend elective surgeries in order to effectively counter the surge.
- In order to observe proper social distancing guidelines, we would have to double the staff size which is not a viable solution at this time due to financial constraints and an ongoing teacher shortage.
- The physical capacity of each school campus is also an issue if we were to have all students return to school in the traditional format WHILE maintaining social distancing.
We have provided parents with 3 instructional models that are feasible, observe social distancing guidelines and metrics, and allow for students to return to some semblance of normalcy with opportunities for them to interact socially with their peers.
1. Virtual Learning Model: Crane iLearning Academy, a standalone online learning school. Staffed, facilitated, and instructed by Crane Elementary School District teachers.
2. Remote Learning at a Designated School: Student will learn virtually, connected to a “brick and mortar” school. Instruction will be provided by educators at the designated school. The remote learning option must be approved by the school principal.
3. Hybrid Model: Students will physically attend school two days a week in a cohort of 16 or less students. During that time, a second cohort will receive their instruction remotely. They will alternate days at the school. Total time at the school: 2 days out of the week. Total time remote learning: 3 days out of the week. Virtual learning will be tied to a specific school.
- The 5th day of week will be designated as a deep cleaning day; no students will be allowed on campus. It will also allow teachers and support staff to have time to lesson plan and engage in professional development.
- Each day, 2 of 10 schools will be closed to allow personnel to meet critical areas needs and expand resources.
- Financial concerns impact: although we can’t feasibly have double sessions for all grade levels, Kindergarten classes will be able to physically attend school 4x/week. Their classes will be half day (a.m. or p.m.) Transportation needs may drive this decision per school.
- Staggering student attendance on campus provides transportation relief; they’re not transporting students to each school each day of the week.
- 30 minutes will be removed from instructional time during the day when teachers are not in front of children because they’ll be required to supervise students during meals and recess.
- At this time, we are unable to hold a spot for a student if their parent unenrolls their child(ren) from our district to enroll the student in a different district.
The school district is in the process of evaluating materials and equipment that will aid in the sanitation and safety of every person on school and district grounds.
- Electrostatic sprayers: quick and efficient disinfecting method to evenly clean surfaces.
- Masks: we are currently discussing whether to implement a face mask protocol. If we do, we will also consider an “opt out” measure for parents who do not want their children to wear a face mask due to religious and/or health concerns.
- Water bottle fillers: an accommodation for students to safely use water fountains without risking exposure or spread germs and infection.
- Cleaning supplies
- Hand sanitizer stations around campus
- Sneeze guards: at every front office reception area and meeting areas.
Special Education: We will continue to follow the student's IEP. Crane’s Director of Exceptional Student Services, Connie Jerpseth, and her team have done exceptional work to ensure that they’re following all guidelines to benefit our students.
Athletics: We will consider AIA guidance to determine which sports will be able to continue with proper social distancing.
Band: Will continue if students use their own instruments and if the equipment is cleaned thoroughly.
Before/After school activities: It is our hope to continue our scheduled programs and activities
Meals: At this time, meals will probably be eaten in the classroom but this protocol is still under review.
Recess: Playground equipment may not be accessible to students as it would be difficult to clean regularly and efficiently, but students will be provided with opportunities to play outside.
Field Trips: Students will likely be able to participate in field trips in small cohorts or virtually.
Support Planning Teams: We have established teams to determine the feasibility, support and resources for all measures related to the reopening of schools.
Communication: As ever, it is essential that our Crane families are kept apprised of developments within the school system. We will reach out to parents via website, social media, newsletter, mass notification, and we’re exploring the idea of direct mailers to each home.
Support for Teachers: We recognize that it will be difficult to teach in multiple modalities, however we have a committee working on educational support and training for educators. We also endeavor to check in with each educator on a regular basis to determine the success of the model and provide support as needed.
Social/Emotional Toll on Students: We’ll have training in order to collaborate as stakeholders to check in with students. We understand that school is a place where students can interact socially and express themselves as individuals. We still want to provide them with a safe and engaging learning environment and are adapting to meet those needs despite our new circumstances.
Pushing back School Start Date: We have determined that postponing the school year would have a negative impact on staff compensation, which aligns with the board-approved calendar. If we postpone the school year, we realize that most of our staff members will experience a financial hardship due to lack of income during the extended closure. We also don’t anticipate that anything will significantly change to warrant postponing school until September.
SELECTING AN INSTRUCTIONAL MODEL TO SUIT YOUR FAMILY NEEDS
We will be sending information for you to register your child(ren) for the option of your choice from the 3 models.
It all seems very daunting at this moment, but we appreciate our community’s continued support and resilience during these unprecedented times. We have always done our best to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our students and their families, and nothing has changed in that respect. We’re doing everything in the proper way. We are holding ourselves accountable and are transparent in our decision-making. We’ve been forthcoming to the public about the positive cases in our district, which has been met with great support and appreciation. We communicate often with our families through social media and emails to parents. We also stay accessible and positive. We are maintaining school unity, albeit virtually.
Thank you all for being important and valued members of the Crane Family. Though school will look different for us all in the fall, we’re excited to see our students again and are ready to continue with our mission of growing a community of curious change-makers through innovative problem solving.