COVID-19 impact: Arizona districts discuss plans for next school year

The good news for many parents is that state officials say students will return to the classroom at the start of the 2020-2021 school year, but they also added a disclaimer.

Campuses and classrooms, empty since schools shut down in March, may soon be filled with students and teachers again.

"The planning for now is for schools to re-open at the beginning of the new school year," said Kathy Hoffman, Arizona Superintendent of Schools.

But schools could look very different once they re-open. State educators, along with public health experts and epidemiologists have just begun discussions on how to proceed during this COVID-19 pandemic. Many are wondering, should students wear masks to school?

MAP: Arizona Coronavirus cases by zip code

"At the state level, we don’t want to be too prescriptive about that and that can also vary depending on the severity of the outbreak in any given community," said Hoffman.

And then there's social distancing. Should desks be removed from classrooms and placed six feet apart? Hoffman says that is unlikely.

"We have to remember that our schools have been significantly underfunded over the past several years, we are understaffed and we have high classroom sizes.. I think we also need to be thinking of the realities of what that looks like in our schools."

Individual school districts will ultimately decide the details for their schools in this new era: balancing education and the safety of students from an unpredictable new virus. Hoffman says along with the uncertainty comes a disclaimer: plans for the new school year can change at any time.

"It’s really hard to make predictions right now. We need to be really cautious and really plan for every type of scenario."

Chandler Unified will be one of the first districts to welcome students back to their school campuses. Their first day is July 22.

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