Arizona Health Department deems it safe for school to resume partially in 4 counties | Local news

Field trips and large gatherings are out. Communal spaces like lunchrooms are closed.

And the health department wants what it calls “cohorting,” keeping the same group of students together. That way, if one gets sick, it spreads only to the children in the group and not the whole school.

But specifics beyond those are left to individual districts — as are the decisions of whether to open or not.

“What we heard from our stakeholder conversations over the summer from school leaders is they wanted to have flexibility to work with their communities,” Taylor said. Beyond that, he said there was a belief that the state should defer to the extent possible to the locally elected school board members.

And there’s something else.

“Mandates can work both ways,” Taylor said. “We wanted schools to be able to decide, even if they met the benchmarks, that they wanted to continue to do distance learning that they could make that decision for themselves.”

One ongoing issue is having the technology for students to be able to learn remotely.

“That’s an ongoing challenge, not just in Arizona but nationwide,” Taylor said.

On the financial side, he said districts can use their share of federal coronavirus grants to purchase computers. And he said the state has relaxed its procurement requirements to make it easier to acquire the needed equipment.

However, availability of equipment is also an issue.

“Everyone’s moved online, working from home,” Taylor said. “There’s a lot of stuff on backorder.”

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