Arizona School Board Member Fears Closures Could Set K-3 Students Back

Published: Wednesday, April 1, 2020 - 5:03pm
Updated: Thursday, April 2, 2020 - 9:37am

Arizona students will not return to class before the end of the school year, and the Legislature has directed public schools to offer some kind of learning opportunities in the meantime. 

During its meeting the week, the Arizona State Board of Education discussed how to track the educational opportunities offered to students. It also suggested sending public schools and charter schools exit surveys to determine what distance learning strategies worked and what didn’t. 

But board member Armando Ruiz was concerned about what effect losing one-third of traditional instruction time would have on some of Arizona’s most vulnerable students such as Title I students, low-income students, English Language Language Learners and students from minority groups. He adds that the problem is even more compounded when these students don’t have access to the internet or computers at home. 

Ruiz also serves on the governing board for Espiritu charter schools in Phoenix that serve students from these populations. 

“What we found out is that kids who are from K-3, if you are one to two grade levels behind, it’s going to take three to five years for kids to catch up,” Ruiz said. 

In Arizona, an estimated 83% of households have access to the internet, according to 2015 data from the National Center for Educational Statistics. 

While schools can send packets of school work home to families without internet access, language and technology barriers for parents who can’t read or speak English still persist. 

“So parents are now ill-prepared to teach their kids at home,” he said. 

Ruiz said Espiritu charter schools are currently looking for ways to provide laptops and internet access to its students. 

Cox Communications is currently offering low-cost internet services to families of students who qualify for free or reduced school lunch, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or public housing.

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