As we prepare to reopen schools we are embracing the opportunity to ensure students with disabilities as well as other special populations are more intentionally integrated into all aspects of preparation and participation, and to ensure the needs of all students are addressed and the decisions benefit all students, staff, and families.
As part of our commitment to meet the needs of all learners, our Special Education department will work with staff and families to ensure students’ needs are addressed in the most appropriate learning environments to support their successful engagement.
The Gifted and Talented team will continue to support schools, gifted learners, and their families in either a hybrid or remote environment. To maximize student’s time on campus, ALPS services may be provided remotely in either the blended or fully virtual environment.
English Language Learners
School closures will have an increased impact on learning acceleration for our English Language Learners. Whether it is via distance learning or a blended model—it is important that schools continue to ensure the goal of English Learners gaining English proficiency as rapidly and effectively as possible. is attained. Students may need additional supports to rebalance and refocus on learning. The goal remains for English Learners to achieve the same rigorous grade-level academic standards that are expected of all students, within a reasonable period of time. To accomplish these goals, all English Learners must receive a comprehensive program of designated and integrated English Language Development (ELD) instruction targeted to their proficiency level, and appropriate academic instruction.
Schools will ensure they embrace English Learners as the assets they are while also providing them with the support they need to succeed. We will provide language instruction services to English Learners in a blended or virtual learning environment. Schools will continue to provide designated and integrated ELD and have the flexibility to determine how services will be provided to English Learners. We will also work with parents and offer opportunities to be involved in their children’s education, especially during distance learning and the transition to reopening.
School closures and the reopening process may also impact reclassification. If schools were not able to administer the Arizona English Language Learner Assessment (AZELLA) to all students during the 2019–20 school year due to school closures, schools should follow the most recent guidance provided until additional assessments are complete. Schools will not exit an English Learner from EL status until the student has demonstrated proficiency. Additionally, schools will closely monitor English Learners and students who were reclassified as fluent English proficient to evaluate whether students need additional services.
The Indian Education and Federal Programs teams provide academic, social and cultural programming for youth and families who identify as Indigenous. The annual summer program was modified and transitioned to include remote activities. The staff will partner with the Phoenix #1 Curriculum and Instruction Team throughout the year as we continue to refine and share the most effective and culturally responsive strategies to support our Native American and Indigenous students and families.
Now, more than ever, we are detached from each other. This period of time, shut into our homes, has really challenged people to be shut into themselves, and some of the things emerging are not comfortable. Some students will struggle re-socializing. Some will need heightened levels of attention, like a plant that’s been starved of water. Some students will need to relearn structure. All of their needs will be unique and a challenge. Thus, before we assume our students or even our staff are ready to return to a “normal” routine, we must be sensitive to the fact that what once was normal no longer exists in this new context. That there is a need to reacquaint ourselves, process what has and is happening, and slowly develop the new normal because this pandemic’s disruption laid deeper roots than we will know. Its lasting effects are still a mystery, but as educators are in a position to nurture our students and each other on an emotional level by connecting, listening, and rebuilding the one thing that will never change—the power of relationships in the classroom.
During these unprecedented times, the district must reemphasize our student-centered approach. When planning courses, additional time will be dedicated to “checking in” with students. Further, educators must ensure the classroom environment, both physical and digital, is one that promotes open communication. Educators will serve as the model for students and therefore, staff emotional intelligence and self-awareness is paramount. If students, families, or staff need additional support please reach out to your school social workers or administrators.