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Dear PUSD Families, Staff and Community,

Like every school and district in Arizona and most across the country, The Prescott Unified School District (PUSD) has been working nonstop to try and outline every possible way to reopen school safely.  Like all of you, we are doing all that we can to unravel the unknown.  Yesterday, the Governor released an executive order that gave us momentum in this endeavor.  It gave schools the flexibility to move and adapt based on the level of COVID-19 risk that our community is experiencing in real time.  While we believe that almost all of us want more than anything for things to be “normal” and for school to be traditional, we must be prepared to move in and out of “in-person” education models based on what is safe for our kids and our community.  I have attached the Governor’s executive order, along with even more detailed information from the Arizona Department of Arizona.

While you can read it for yourself, I will tell you that the immediate takeaways for us came with great relief.  One was that schools and districts will be held harmless for no more than 2% budget loss.  This takes away the undeniable risk that every school faces in terms of being able to make decisions using distance learning when needed.  This also allows any student  to choose distance learning throughout these uncertain times.  While PUSD was already heading that direction, this order took away all uncertainty.

We are grateful for all of the honest feedback that we have received from our parents and community.  While many have requested either one extreme or the other (in person or distance learning,) it will not be that simple.  I wish it were.  Instead, schools across the country are preparing for three modes of instructional delivery: in-person at school with social distancing measures, distance learning from home (like we had to do in the spring,) or a hybrid model in-between the two that allows for half of the students at a time to be scheduled in-person while the other half are distance learning from home.  These models will coincide with the local risk level of COVID-19.  Districts will work closely with their local health officials to determine these risk levels.  Risk levels will also follow a protocol that will be highlighted in PUSD’s “Roadmap for Reopening,” which follows the Arizona Department of Education’s Roadmap.  PUSD’s Roadmap will be shared with the PUSD Governing Board on July14th for recommendations and approval.

We are grateful for your caring approach and we are hearing two main concerns right now that we have been and will be addressing carefully.  First, folks are asking if distance learning will be more robust than in the spring when we were all faced with instant solutions for something that had never happened before: an unplanned school closure.  The answer is that this has been a primary focus for PUSD since the COVID closures began.  As I write this, a committee is meeting solely on that topic, and has already put in countless hours on what we knew would be a needed rigor in our distance learning model.  Please note, as you will see in our guiding principles that PUSD prefers face-to-face learning to distance learning whenever it is safe to do so.  Teacher and student interactions and relationships are where the magic of our profession occurs.   What will be different in PUSD as compared to alternative online schools (besides that purely online alternative schools are notorious for some of the poorest student achievement of any schools) is that PUSD distance learning will always be connected with a real-live PUSD teacher that works in our brick and mortar schools.  Our distance learning is a gap to the COVID pandemic, not our preferred model of teaching and learning.  I believe when all is said and done, our distance learning will be a successful model that others will follow.

The second concern is related to the first.  Teachers and caring community members have been voicing concern that teachers will be doubling their work by possibly teaching in person and online.  While no one in the country has the perfect answer to that yet, we also have had committees working on this concern all week.  Part of the solution lies in matching numbers of social distance students with a proportionate group of teachers.  PUSD will likely assign some teachers to distance learning only.  Additionally, PUSD is asking the Governing Board on June 30th to consider a district director position focused completely on distance learning, supporting families and staff in the endeavor.  This would be using COVID CARES act grant monies.  (FYI, we are also considering a full time director for health and safety to liaison with staff, parents and health officials, also using the relief monies.)

Though much is still uncertain, the Governor’s executive order answered some crucial questions.  Although PUSD is continuing to communicate with our families and communities as much as possible, we know that we can’t communicate enough in circumstances like this.  We have a communication committee, and many other committees that are informing decisions for our PUSD Roadmap for Reopening Schools.  I will reiterate, as I have since March, that if you do not feel your questions are being addressed, please reach out to me directly at joe.howard@prescottschools.com.  Many of you already have great communication relationships with your principals and teachers.  We are all here for you any time.

Thank you for your amazing patience, support and tenacity as we all tackle the unknown together.  Following are snapshots from our PUSD Roadmap to Reopening Schools to share some of our guiding principles, mission and vision that we keep in mind while climbing this mountain:

How will we reopen schools? As this situation has us making literally thousands of new decisions on how to “do school” we will follow these guiding principles:

This Roadmap is guided by five principles: 

  1. Act with fidelity to PUSD’s Vision, Mission, and Goals

Prioritize quality education for all students that provides continuity of learning and that is engaging and rigorous regardless of the instructional model they are served in during the school year

  1. Prefer face-to-face learning over distance learning whenever it is safe to do so. 
  2. Prioritize student and staff health, safety, and wellbeing over other principles. 
  3. Ensure hygiene and health related policies are research based, clearly communicated, effectively implemented, and diligently enforced. 
  4. Promote practices and policies to reduce risk of virus transmission and support our capacity to be responsive and agile when facing changing health circumstances.

 

PUSD Mission, Vision, and Goals

Vision

Prescott Unified School District educates students to be confident, lifelong-learners prepared to achieve their full potential in a complex, interconnected world.

Mission

 

  • Providing extraordinary opportunities through a variety of programs and challenging curriculum.

 

  • Uniting the PUSD family of students, staff, and community members through positive relationships.

 

  • Supporting exceptional staff through ongoing individualized professional development.
  • Developing a highly educated, civic-minded, and productive community, one student at a time.

 

 

 

The following an overview of the PUSD Roadmap to Reopening that the Governing Board will be considering on July 14:

 

Part 1:  Guiding Principles. This section establishes the first principle as our foundation for planning, acting, and decision making. It is important to present a discussion of rights and responsibilities through the lens of our motto: EVERY CHILD, EVERY DAY, EVERYWHERE. Members of our community have certain rights, but they also have responsibilities to others. The significance of these mutual obligations will be heightened for the foreseeable future, which is why PUSD feels an open review of the first principle is an important starting point for this document. 

Part 2: Learning Models.  This section provides a rationale for the second principle listed above, it outlines PUSD’s preference for face-to-face learning. This section describes the three learning models we anticipate needing next year as we await the advancements in prevention, testing, and research that will allow us to resume more familiar approaches to school environments and learning. This section also explains how we will align these learning models to our assessments of risk – that is, what drivers will influence our movement from one risk level to another and which learning model is most appropriate to each risk level.  

Part 3:  Health and Safety.  This section addresses the third, fourth, and fifth principles. The third principle, which concerns the health and safety of our students and staff, will always be the most important driver in decisions taken. The fourth and fifth principles complement the third, asserting the importance of mitigating risk through precautions involving social responsibilities, preventative hygiene and physical distancing. 

Part 4:  Activities and Athletics.  This section provides an overview of how we expect our activities and athletics programs will need to adjust during the 2020-21 school year. These opportunities are central to the PUSD experience and our students value them greatly. However, our extracurricular and cocurricular programs need to be aligned quite tightly to our assessment of risk and corresponding learning model. 

Link to the Governor’s Executive Order:  https://azgovernor.gov/sites/default/files/eo_2020-41.pdf

Link to Arizona Department of Education’s details on the order:

https://azgovernor.gov/sites/default/files/flexibility_and_funding_for_schools.pdf

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