Morenci Schools to reopen to in-person schooling Aug. 31 with AB model

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo/Gila Herald: Morenci school buses have had little use during the first four weeks of the 2020-21 school year. However, the district will be switching from a distance learning model to an AB split schedule at the end of August.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – “We anticipate being able to return to school physically on August 31st,” Morenci Schools Superintendant Dr. David Woodall announced Friday evening.

Morenci schools opened July 29 with a distance learning model. A state-mandated in-class learning date has been followed since. The mandate said schools could not physically open before Aug. 17. Districts should also consider three health benchmarks, the number of infections, the number of cases, and the number of hospitalizations in the area, before returning to in-class learning.

“I’m happy to report today Greenlee County is looking very good in those three areas,” Woodall said. “We’ve been watching around our state and the United States in general. Colleges and schools have re-opened only to have to close in a few weeks. We want to avoid that.

“When we return on Aug. 31, we will be using a split schedule or AB model. Half the students come to school every other day. Students in Pool A will attend Monday and Wednesday, and participate in distance learning Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Pool B students will attend Tuesday and Thursday, and be in distance learning Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.”

“Teachers and administrators will be reaching out to parents early next week with the information on what days the kids attend school.”

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo/Gila Herald: Morenci School Superintendant Dr. David Woodall addresses a staff gathering before the start of the 2019-20 school year.

“What’s the purpose of doing this?”

“We’ve been out of school five and a half months. When we start school again, it’s going to look a lot different. This pandemic has emphasized social distancing. Schools are not good at social distancing. We’re the opposite of social distancing.”

“So, when we return, by bringing in half the students at a time, it means we have half the students in the bus, half the students in the classroom, and half the students in the cafeteria. It allows us to build on practices and procedures for educating students in a healthy and safe manner so that we’re not closing in two or three weeks.”

“It is not our goal or intent to keep an AB model going for an extended period of time. We want to try our practices and procedures, and get up to speed on how we can deliver education in this environment. Then we want to get all children back to school every day.”

“When school returns, it’s going to look a little different. We’re going to be using multiple entrances. The children come into the building. We’re going to be giving them hand sanitizer and asking them to wash their hands.  We’re going to be checking every student’s temperature, every staff member’s temperature. We’re going to be wearing masks, students, and staff.”

“Some people don’t want to wear masks. Unfortunately, it’s one of the few tools we have in a crowded environment to ensure the safety of students. Please know it’s not our intent to have a mask on a child or staff member all day every day.”

“We’re going to be taking recesses or breaks, getting students outside, getting them out of a mask. However, it is one tool that we’ll have to make good use of.”

“As we return to school, we will have full bus service, cafeteria services, all of our services will be back to a normal school routine.”

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: A Mask Up sign is highly visible attached to the Fairbanks Middle School overpass. Students will be required to wear masks upon returning to in-class learning at the end of August.

“I understand some of you may not be comfortable returning your child to school. We will still have the Morenci Digital program for your child to participate in if you want to keep them at home.”

“I have to tell you, we want your children back in school. Most of us went into education because we love kids. We love working with them. Distance learning doesn’t provide that opportunity.”

“We want your kids back to school. We look forward to seeing them the week of Aug. 31.”

Dr. David Woodall has been an educator since 1979 and became a superintendent 10 years later. Morenci’s current governing board is Kelly Baker, Ron Campbell, and Steve Leyba.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The corner of Lawson Stadium has a Mask Up sign.