SUSD Elementary Families Have Option to Return Students to Campuses, Starting Sept. 21; Middle/High Schools After Fall Break

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (Sept. 10, 2020) – The Governing Board of the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) voted unanimously yesterday to begin phasing students back to school campuses beginning Sept. 21 with Kindergarten, first and second grades going first. Third, fourth and fifth grade students can return starting Sept. 29, followed by middle school and high schools on Oct. 12, after SUSD’s annual fall break the week of Oct. 5.

Special Education students in Pre-Kindergarten through high school ‘self-contained’ special program classrooms (ALC, LSC, SCA, K-ABC, SHINE, SUCCESS, PANDA/STAIRS and SCORE), as well as Preschool students, are already scheduled to return to their school buildings on Sept. 14.

The results of a parent survey conducted last week indicate that 50% of the nearly 12,000 respondents are prepared to return their students to school classrooms now; 34% expressed a preference to have their students stay in Enhanced Distance Learning until public health metrics are ‘green’ for two weeks, with the remaining 25% expressing support for a hybrid model that included two half-days of in-person instruction each week. A concurrent survey of SUSD teachers and staff reflects a similar split between those who support returning to school now and those who believe it is important to wait until the metrics are in green.

Starting today, the District is asking the parents of elementary school students to commit to one of two learning scenarios for their students to follow through the first semester that ends Dec. 18. A proposed hybrid plan that would have combined daily on-campus and at-home learning did not receive sufficient support from parents.

Parents will choose to take part in a phased in, full return of students to school buildings for full school days or to remain in the Enhanced Distance Learning (EDL) program that 85% of SUSD students have been in since school began Aug. 10. The remaining 15% are enrolled in the District’s K-12 Scottsdale Online program and have already committed to staying there through the first semester.

Next week, to accommodate the choices K-5 parents make, the District will assess the need to modify current staffing assignments. District officials have noted in recent weeks that some reassignments may be necessary in order to offer in-person learning and may result in some students getting new teachers.

“Everybody is going to sacrifice a little something,” notes Superintendent Dr. Scott Menzel. “Not everybody is going to get everything they want, but more kids are going to get what they need.”

The Board also reaffirmed its decision last month to base school openings and, potentially, re-closings, on state public health metrics and guidelines.

All students and staff will be required to wear a face covering while they are on campus. For now, no visitors will be allowed at schools, except in an emergency, and classes will not go on field trips.

“We are not epidemiologists or public health officials, so to deviate from these guidelines now would open us up to questions, challenges and scrutiny, I believe,” Menzel adds. “We must follow the science.”

“We cannot guarantee that students will always be six feet away from each other because kids just tend to gravitate toward each other, but we will be in substantial compliance with the public health recommendations and do the very best we can to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our students and staff.”

At its regular monthly meeting next week, the Governing Board is expected to receive a report from District facilities officials on the preparations to make SUSD schools as safe as possible from COVID-19.

“We will navigate this pandemic together, as a community,” Menzel says.

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