School is back in session in northern Arizona, although it looks unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, with most K-12 school systems opting for virtual classes at least for the first quarter of the school year because of coronavirus.
#1 Benchmarks. One of the big statistical indicators for whether a school district is ready to begin in-person sessions has to do with three benchmarks from the Arizona Department of Health Services. They are:
- A decline in coronavirus cases or less than 100 cases per 100,000 individuals for two consecutive weeks
- Two consecutive weeks with “percent positivity” below 7%. (This is exactly what it sounds like; that fewer than 7% of the coronavirus tests come back positive. It’s an indicator of transmission rates or that too few people are being tested.)
- Two consecutive weeks with hospital visits for COVID-like illnesses in the region below 10%
Coconino County has met two of the three benchmarks, but positive tests have not dipped below that 7% threshold for two consecutive weeks according to the latest report from the County.
#2 Full STEAM Ahead. Meanwhile, our regional efforts to encourage STEM learning are still going strong, despite the difficulties posed by coronavirus.
Flagstaff STEM City is recruiting professionals in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) to provide hands-on education for students in grades 5 through 8.
“Full STEAM Ahead” is a remote-learning collaboration in which local professionals, teachers and students meet monthly to complete lessons and activities to help students develop a project by May. An orientation to help plan a curriculum schedule and introduce pairings will take place next month, followed by monthly activities beginning in October. The time commitment is expected to be about five hours a month between preparation and classroom time.
It’s a great opportunity for professionals in these sectors to share their knowledge and inspire students to pursue STEAM careers. For more information, email Flagstaff STEM City at email@example.com.
#3. State Focuses on Child Care. Governor Doug Ducey announced earlier this month that he would be dedicating $88 million in CARES Act funds to help child care facilities and families during the crisis. The funds have been earmarked to support the reopening of child care centers, provide care for the children of essential workers and help working parents by increasing the number of days each month a child can be absent from child care from two to five.
These funds will be particularly welcome as less than half of state licensed and certified child care providers have managed to remain open through the pandemic.
We already knew that this school year would be unique, just another aspect of our lives that has been changed, at least temporarily, by the pandemic. But these steps by local and state entities are good attempts to try to bring some normalcy and stability to our kids during a very uncertain time.