As discussed last week, Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board plans to meet in special session Monday at 6:30 p.m. to discuss changing the date of the first day of school.

Opening day is scheduled for July 23. The district is currently using a modified schedule that includes two-week breaks for fall, winter and spring.

This week’s agenda states delaying the start of the school year is recommended “due to the unpredictability of the data associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Arizona has drawn national attention as a hot zone for the coronavirus.

During the June 24 meeting, Bernadette Russoniello, a counselor at the high school who is also a mother of students and a spouse of a teacher, asked the board to consider delaying the school year or opening fully online. She said she is “terrified” of returning to campus under current conditions.

To accommodate all students and alleviate health fears, the district has put together a plan that would provide education models to be in place for the first semester. Those include the traditional on-campus, brick-and-mortar instruction model that would engage a litany of health protocols, a fully online, real-time instruction model and a hybrid model that would have students on campus part of the time and online part-time.

For the moment, only the fully on campus and the fully online models are completely developed. It is doubted the hybrid model would be set by July 23.

Sue Swano, president of the Maricopa Education Association, said the organization took issue with some of the stipulations entailed in the brick-and-mortar model. She wrote to the board, stating staff and students should be able to move around throughout the day rather than be confined to one classroom.

“MEA fully understands that it is easier to trace contact from person to person if someone tests positive for COVID-19 , but we also know for mental health reasons, it is not best practice to be contained in the classroom for seven to eight hours a day.”

While nursing professionals at the district have asked that students wear face masks on buses and when entering campus, wearing face masks all day is not feasible. As planned, elementary students and their teachers would stay within their cohorts in the classroom, where they would not have to wear a mask, and outside for recess. MEA, on the other hands, suggests wearing masks or face shields in class.

The discussion and decision about delaying the start of the school year is the only action item on Monday’s agenda.