Charter high schools pave way to get kids back on campus

Heritage Academy charter school brought kids back to campus after Labor Day.


Charter high schools are setting an example for returning to campus amid COVID-19 as Maricopa Unified School District prepares to bring back secondary students Monday.

A+ Charter Schools, in its first year, started school online then launched a hybrid model after Labor Day. Students were online or in class, depending on their choice. According to principal Rachele Reese, they expect to bring all students back full-time Sept. 21.

The school is founded on Project-Based Learning.

“A+ Charter Schools is off to an awesome start thanks to the hard work and dedication of our staff, students and families,” Reese said. “Project Based Learning has lent itself to a smooth transition between online and in-person education.”

She said the school is basing its return on local benchmarks and its own mitigation plan.

“Our mitigation plan consisting of motion-sensor bathroom fixtures, tiled floors, increased disinfecting and sanitizing measures, small class sizes with large capacity rooms, among others, allows us to safely return to campus,” Reese said.

Sequoia Pathway used a hybrid model to bring students back to campus Sept. 8. Masks were required, and the school did “wellness checks” at the entry gate. Students also had the option to remain online.

Students are divided into cohorts, with one cohort meeting Mondays and Wednesdays on campus and others meeting Tuesdays and Thursdays.

In its second year, Heritage Academy brought its students back Sept. 9 after an online start.

Principal Kimberly Ellsworth said the early days went smoothly.

“I was very impressed with our scholars on their return to school,” she said. “They followed all directions including following one-way hallways, washing hands, washing desks and sanitizing after each class.”

Heritage requires parents to screen their children daily before sending them off to school. Masks are required on campus, but teacher discretion comes into play when social distancing is possible.

“They came prepared to learn and be involved in school again,” Ellsworth said. “It has been great to see them happy and healthy. We continue to take precautions to keep all scholars safe and to continue the learning process.

“It is great to be back!”