MUSD preps options tonight for coming back to school

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Tonight, Maricopa Unified School District will present the first draft of its “Welcome Back” plan as it prepares to start classes July 23 in the wake of COVID-19. Tomorrow, everyone can begin choosing their preferred option as the district touts its flexibility.

MUSD received survey responses from 3,073 parents and 636 staff regarding their preferences and concerns.

That survey showed 45% of parents wanted a brick-and-mortar setting for classes, while 44% of teachers preferred a hybrid of onsite and online learning. The opinions of parents and teachers were mostly in line on questions of face mask use and daily temperature checks.

The framework for returning will be published on the district website Thursday. It includes a caveat: “Plans for a hybrid model that integrates in-person and remote learning are in development and highly dependent on several external factors.  Therefore, we cannot commit to launching this model on the first day of school.”

Families will have the option of choosing to go to school in person on campus or attending class via the newly established Virtual Academy. All students will receive a personal, dedicated device.

Health Services has had video meetings with custodial staff to go through the cleaning and disinfecting process. Because social distancing is not considered feasible on a school bus, school nurses are encouraging masks on the bus or from their drop-off point onto school grounds. If parents want their children to wear a mask in more settings, that can be accomplished up to a point.

“Children should not sit in a mask all day long in a room,” District Nurse Lizabeth Stephens, R.N., said.

Meetings between Health Services and the principals were organized to get everyone’s ideas about how to put best health advice into practice. The Arizona Interscholastic Association’s COVID-19 guidelines are also a point of conversation.

Though meals, art and music may be in the classroom for elementary students, the daily schedule will be regular. The district is also expecting afterschool programs like 21st Century and the new Boys & Girls Club to operate in their designated locations.

“We are preparing to be there when school starts,” said Matthew Lemberg, executive director of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Casa Grande Valley, which is launching its Maricopa club this year.

The middle schools and high school will have “virtual clubs” available.

The online learning platforms will have “daily synchronous instruction” such as ZOOM or Google Meets. It is expected to be more direct learning experience than the distance learning of last quarter.

Starting tomorrow, families can choose their option at www.musd20.org/musdsafe.

Learn more about the district’s physical and mental health preparation in the July issue of InMaricopa magazine.