DOUGLAS — Citing concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic, officials with the Douglas Unified School District have announced some changes students will experience when they start school on Monday, Aug. 17.
At a special school board meeting, DUSD Superintendent Ana Samaniego outlined a proposed hybrid schedule when students return.
“Our date of Aug. 17 was something we had already thought about and were prepared to do before Gov. Ducey issued his latest executive order asking all schools to hold off starting before that date,” Samaniego said, adding that school was originally scheduled to start Aug. 6. “That start date could change should another announcement be made by the governor. With the latest executive order, if we open with this hybrid model we have to have our buildings physically open everyday of the week for those parents who don’t have a place for those children on either their A or B day, or Wednesday online. Technically we may have children coming to us, five days a week. Every school will need to have a classroom that will have desks and resources for those students. That’s the challenge of the hybrid model.”
The proposed 2-1-2 format will have students receiving their 180 total days of instructional learning with two days on campus and three online. With this new format, there will be no early release days and no fall break. The last day of school will be Wednesday, May 26 with graduation on May 28. Students will be off Nov. 26-27 for Thanksgiving. Christmas break will take place Dec. 24 to Jan. 6; spring break, March 8-12 and they will also get just one day, April 2, instead of two, off for Easter.
The students will be divided up into groups, and be in school on days of their assigned days which could have an AM or PM. session depending on the school.
Monday and Thursday will be what is being called A day. Tuesday and Friday will be B day.
Wednesday of each week, all DUSD campuses will be closed for a thorough cleaning while students will be at home receiving online instruction. It will also provide teachers with what is being called a “Teacher Work Day.”
Samaniego wanted it understood that daily attendance would be taken regardless of if the students are physically in class or attending online and that grades would also be given out for both in class and online assignments.
Elementary schools proposed hybrid school
For the five DUSD elementary schools, classes will start at 8 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. There will be smaller class sizes this year with no more than 12 students in a class. Half of the students will attend school on an A day, the other half on a B day.
Meals will be served inside the classrooms. Guardians or parents will be required to bring their student(s) to school. Temperatures will be taken while the parents wait so if a child has a temperature, they will not be allowed on campus and will then be issued an online learning packet for that day.
“This is something we are still working on so that we have consistency in all the schools,” Samaniego said in regards to the temperature checks.
Middle schools proposed hybrid schedule
The two middle schools in Douglas, will also have a regular bell schedule of 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Students and staff will enter and depart through specific gates that will minimize crowdedness while also allowing staff to monitor for symptoms. Staff will be checked upon arrival for any symptoms and have their temperature checked. Students will report directly to their first period class where breakfast will be waiting for them. Masks will be recommended for all school staff and students.
The student population will be divided into two groups with half attending school on A days, the other half on B days. Those groups will then be divided into what is being called “cohort groups” of 12-15 students who will then travel together from class to class minimizing congregating with other students while also keeping better track of a group should an illness arise. In the classroom, students will be assigned seats and will all face one direction, six feet part. Students will receive individual packets, books and worksheets. They will not be allowed to share resources or materials such as pencils, pens, notebooks, paper, etc. There will be no partner or work groups unless done virtually. All classrooms will be “minimalistic” with the ability to fully sanitize in a timely manner. Breakfast and lunch will be served in the classrooms. Some classes may be allowed to eat outside as recommended by the staff from Chiricahua Community Health Centers Inc.
DHS proposed hybrid schedule
Douglas High School is projecting 1,500 students when school begins. Classes will run from 8 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. and include an AM and PM. session which will run from 8 to 10:55 a.m. for the AM session and 12:15 to 3:10 p.m. in the PM session. Classes will be disinfected at least five times per day.
Principal Randy Walker is recommending breaking up the student population into four groups of roughly 375 students each who will be on campus at one time for all four grade levels. Three courses will be taught every six weeks; seven per semester. Students will be on campus twice per week and receive online instruction the other three days. Those not attending school in person will be completing their coursework online.
“We learned some things during the last fourth quarter last year when we were actually giving grades,” Walker said. “One of the things we noticed in April was that the teachers were getting overwhelmed, so it just wasn’t the students having seven classes online. This plan actually started forming back then. We don’t want to overload the students or teachers and we want to keep the safety of everyone in place.”
Walker anticipates having a maximum of 10 students in a classroom at one time this year.
“I’m a firm believer that children need to be in school,” Samaniego stated. “We also need to be responsible and do what is in the best interest of our kids and staff.”
“Based on all that I am hearing I am really apprehensive about starting school,” DUSD board president Ray Borane said. “I do feel however we are moving diligently and doing what we have to do to address these concerns. We are moving forward with the best information we have now.”