It was the first week of in-person classes for the Parker Unified School District, but, as Superintendent Brad Sale noted, it didn’t look like any first-days-of school that most people experienced in the past.
After being cleared to open by meeting all the coronavirus benchmarks set by the Arizona Department of Health Services, the PUSD began “hybrid” classes Monday, Sept. 8 after months of distance learning. There were some real changes as to how things are being done.
Students whose last named begin with A – L will attend classes Mondays and Tuesdays. Students whose last names begin with M – Z will attend classes on Wednesdays and Fridays. The students will alternate coming to school for classes on Fridays.
When students aren’t in school for classes, they are expected to attend distance learning through Google Classroom.
In addition, students are required to have their temperatures taken when they arrive at school or when they get on the school bus if that’s how they get to school. Social distancing is practiced in class, and students must wear masks when on campus, according to school policies adopted last summer.
Parker High Principal David Daly said the only exception to the mask requirement is when classrooms are large enough and there are so few students in the classroom that they can all be seated at least six feet apart.
As examples, on the day the Pioneer visited Parker High, Doug Meale and Lonnie Lewis’s classrooms were large enough and didn’t have many students, so the mask requirement was waived. On the other hand, Esther Scott’s math classroom was much smaller and there wasn’t enough room for students to be six feet apart. Masks were required in her classes.
In addition to masks and social distancing, other actions related to the coronavirus included posting new rules and guidelines at school entrances. Hand washing and sanitizing stations have been set up on school campuses.
The state’s schools were ordered closed for in-person classes in March by Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman. Most schools in the state went to some sort of distance learning as a way of keeping education going. The spring high school sports season was cancelled. Due to restrictions on large gatherings, Parker High’s 2020 graduation ceremony was cancelled and replaced with a graduation parade through the town. While stating they missed the traditional ceremony, many students and residents said they really enjoyed the parade.
Sale said he thought the first week of hybrid classes went well. He offered no estimate as to when the district might return to full-time in-person classes.