It was a return to something resembling normal at the Parker Unified School District last week. Starting Monday, March 22, the first day back from Spring Break, the district had full-time, in-person classes at all the schools for the first time in about a year.
Superintendent Brad Sale said the week went well.
“I have heard nothing bad,” he said. “I have heard we have some tired kindergarteners in the afternoon.”
Sale said it was nice seeing full playgrounds again, and seeing the student parking lot at Parker High full.
“The parents are happy and the kids are excited,” he said.
For the time being, Sale said the Parker schools will continue with face mask requirements and social distancing, as well as maintaining hand sanitizing stations on the campuses. While Gov. Doug Ducey lifted many of the face mask and other mitigation policies March 25, Sale said the schools are under mandates from the Arizona Department of Health Services.
The principals of the different schools in the district said the week went well, students are excited to be back in class, and teachers are excited to have them.
“It’s been good,” Parker High Vice Principal Jeff Wheatley said. “There’s a good energy on the campus.”
Wheatley estimated 15 to 20 percent of the students are still distance learning, as is their option.
“Most of our students are back on campus,” he said.
“It’s going absolutely terrific,” said Le Pera Elementary Principal Brian Wedemeyer. The school is in Poston, which means they are also subject to the rules and regulations set by the Colorado River Indian Tribes. Wedemeyer said they are taking their precautions, social distancing, and wearing masks.
“The students and staff have been really good about that,” he said.
Of the 214 students enrolled at Le Pera, Wedemeyer estimated 10 are still doing distance learning. He added the students who are returning have some catching up to do.
“Our focus is getting back on track,” he said. “This has been tough on the students.”
“It’s been wonderful having all the students back,” said Amanda Maxwell, Principal of Wallace Junior High. “This is making a positive difference in their well-being.”
Maxwell said 39 of the 370 WJS students are still doing distance learning.
There are several upcoming events that Maxwell said she, the staff and the students are looking forward to.
“We’re looking to have student council and honor society service activities, as well as a regular commencement event,” she said.
Kelly McGuire at Wallace Elementary School said they were “doing awesome.”
She estimated 90 percent of the students are back in class.
“Attendance has been great,” she said. “We’re plowing along. The kids are excited to be back and we’re excited to have them back.”
“It’s going great,” said Joanna Gerbitz-Hermes, Principal of Blake Primary School. “I am so excited to have all the kids back.”
Gerbitz-Hermes said the staff and students have a lot to catch up on.
“We’re going to be trying to do a lot until the end of the school year in May,” she said.
One issue that had causes concern was transportation, particularly with ADHS limiting how many students could be on school busses. Sale said this has worked out quite well.
“Parents have taken up much of the transportation needs,” he said.
Gerbitz-Hermes said she wanted to remind Blake parents of the new student loading-unloading zone on the Eighth Street side of the school.
For any questions regarding the return to full-time, in-person classes, please call the Parker Unified School District at 928-669-9244.
It was in March 2020 when Gov. Ducey and State School Superintendent Kathy Hoffman closed the schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Parker schools finished the year and started the 2020-21 school year with distance learning. In September, the level of cases in the district reached the point where they could have “hybrid” learning, with half the students on campus at a given time.
With the steady decline in new cases since January, the decision was made to return to full-time, in-person classes.