Category : In the News

Rising Wave of Districts Sticking With Full-Time Remote Learning

Wednesday , July 15 , 2020

Jesse Welsh, the superintendent of the Paradise Valley schools in Arizona, said his district was concerned about establishing some stability during very uncertain times, prompting it to also start this school year with remote learning, rather than wait for another order from the governor.

A growing number of school districts across the country have recently announced plans to return to full-time remote learning when the 2020-21 school year starts, defying nationwide pressure from federal leaders and some parents to at least partially reopen school buildings. It is an excruciating decision for school district leaders to make because of strong feelings on both sides of the reopening debate. And they are struggling to make those decisions with often conflicting messages from state and federal leaders.

Complex Calculations

But long-term school building closures have financial implications. And district leaders are factoring those implications into their reopening decisions.

The Paradise Valley school district in Arizona will continue to provide meals for students who need them while school buildings are otherwise closed until at least Sept. 8. But “when you’re not open, you’re not able to collect revenues from students that are purchasing lunches. So you have additional costs as well as losses in revenue,” said Jesse Welsh, the district’s superintendent.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has prohibited school buildings from reopening until at least Aug. 17, and Welsh suspects those restrictions might be extended as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the state. The district’s school year will begin on Aug. 5.

Welsh’s district has been planning for the possibility of continuing remote learning in the fall ever since the last school year ended. Still, the district had to pause plans to reopen school buildings once Ducey’s order came down.

“We really felt like waiting [to start the school year] until the 17th or whatever that date might be didn’t make a lot of sense,” Welsh said. “We wanted to provide stability for our staff and for our families.”

No plan is going to satisfy all parties, but the district has been updating parents regularly with a weekly email dispatch on Wednesdays, as well as other communications throughout the week. “I’ve had many conversations with families over the last several months. While they don’t always necessarily agree with the decisions being made, they do understand the rationale behind it,” Welsh said.

Excerpts were taken from Education Week Read the entire Education Week article.