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Superintendent's News

Posted: July 17, 2020

Snow Day on Steroids

In a message to employees, Supt. Elder writes about the challenges of creating a Reentry Play.

One of the most dreaded responsibilities of the APS Chief Operations Officer is deciding whether to call for a snow day. As the winter storms rolled in, I would be up all night monitoring the weather, checking in with police and transportation, even driving the roads myself to see if they might be too slick for a bus driver or a mom with a car full of kids or a teenager with a learner's permit.

I didn't want our students to miss out on instruction, and I knew how disruptive closing schools could be for working families. Still, safety had to come first. To make matters worse, you could be sure that as dangerous as the roads were in one part of town, they were clear as a bell in another, further distressing and infuriating families.

Snow days are a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. Dealing with the coronavirus is like a snow day on steroids.

For the past several weeks, we have been working on the APS Reentry Plan for the 2020-2021 school year. I encourage you to read the plan, if you haven't already, or at least to look at the overview posted to the APS website. You'll notice it calls for several weeks of planning, prep, and remote learning during the first weeks of school, with students scheduled to return to the ​classroom after Labor Day on an every-other-week rotation Tuesdays-Fridays.

The plan also outlines steps for swiftly moving to remote learning if the spread of the coronavirus isn't curtailed and public health orders still call for residents to mostly stay home.

Flexibility is the name of this game. As each day seems to bring unforeseen challenges, the district, its staff, students, and families all need to be ready to turn on a dime.

The Reentry Plan was painstakingly put together, taking into consideration everyone's point of view. From families who want to send to their children to school to those who feel safer keeping them home. From teachers longing to get back in the classroom to those concerned with their health or the health of someone they care for. From community leaders who see the return to school as a much-needed boost to the local economy to those who worry about an unmanageable spread of the virus that will further burden our healthcare system and threaten the lives of our neighbors.

We were asked to solve an unsolvable problem. What we came up with is a good compromise that allows for in-school instruction in small, safe settings on an every-other-week rotation, allowing for continuity, fewer transitions, easier planning and scheduling, and deeper cleaning.

With compromise, of course, comes uncertainty. All of us, as members of the APS team, will have to face those uncertainties with bravery, innovation, and collaboration. And you can be sure that our decisions will be met with cheers and jeers.

​We will get through this historic crisis together. We'll learn to live with the virus, and eventually, there will be a vaccine. But I worry about the possible impacts along the way if we don't get this right. So, we're working on getting it right.