Gov. Doug Ducey and schools Superintendent Kathy Hoffman announced Sunday that they are closing schools statewide through March 27 out of concern over the coronavirus spread.
“As more schools announce closures and education administrators express staff shortages within their schools, now is the time to act,” they said in a news release. “A statewide closure is the right thing to do. While this measure will not stop the spread of COVID-19, it will bring certainty and consistency in schools across Arizona.”
Sahuarita Unified School District schools were set to begin spring break Monday. Superintendent Manny Valenzuela said it is his understanding this includes the cancellation of all athletic events.
The announcement came hours after the Pima County Health Department announced it had identified a third case in Pima County — an older adult “currently recovering in an area hospital.”
It also came a day after Green Valley Recreation announced it has closed all 13 rec centers in Green Valley until at least April 1.
The Green Valley Gardeners also announced its spring plant sale is canceled.
‘Health and safety’
“The health and safety of all our students is our top priority, and we’ve worked hard to keep our school doors open — schools provide important services and many families rely on them for nutrition, access to health care and in order to do their own jobs,” Hoffman said. “I am in close contact with school superintendents, teachers, and parents and will continue working closely in partnership with schools to ensure that our families needs are met.”
The Governor’s Office and the Department of Education are working to implement directives to minimize the impact of the closure for Arizona kids during the closure, including access to healthcare and nutritional meals, and sanitary precautions schools can take upon reopening of schools. These directives include:
•School administrators should make every effort to provide continued education learning opportunities through online resources or materials that can be sent home.
•School administrators should develop a plan to continue breakfast and lunch services for Arizona students.
•As demand rises on healthcare professionals and first responders, schools should expand child care programs currently available to ensure minimal disruption to these critical jobs as a result of the school closure.
When school resumes, school administrators should develop and implement precautions to ensure schools are a safe learning environment, including social distancing measures, regular intervals for administrators to wash and sanitize their hands, and guidance on how to properly and frequently sanitize election equipment and common surfaces.
Additionally, Ducey and Hoffman said they are committed to working together to minimize the impact of these closures. Including:
Working to ensure that any student who receives free and reduced-price meals will continue to be able to access those meals. The State is working with USDA to allow schools to begin summer food service operations and provide boxed meals as needed.
Educating parents on recommendations from public health officials for kids who are not at school to remain at home to the greatest extent possible. For families for whom that’s not an option, the State is coordinating with partners in the non-profit, faith-based and education communities to make available childcare options to families who need it.
Working together to make sure dedicated school employees don’t see any disruption to their pay, and consulting with school district and legislative partners to determine the extent of any potential makeup days.
Engaging federal partners to secure a waiver related to the statewide testing that provides flexibility for Arizona.
Engaging with our federal partners in the event that we need to secure a waiver related to statewide testing that provides flexibility and makes sense for Arizona.