Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday said children should return to Arizona classrooms while also assuring teachers they would have quick access to the covid-19 vaccination.

The message came during the governor’s annual State of the State address, which was streamed live via YouTube from a remote location in Phoenix. The traditional in-person ceremony was canceled as a covid-19 precaution.

“Across our state, students have been kept out of their classrooms for long enough,” Ducey said during his prepared speech. “They’ve lost out on childhood experiences that can’t be duplicated on a computer screen.”

Ducey said the state would not fund “empty seats” or allow schools to “remain in a perpetual state of closure.”

In late December, Ducey signed an executive order to speed up the state’s vaccination rollout. The order directs the state Department of Health Services to implement a vaccination plan, rather than each county having their own implementation plans.

On Monday, Ducey said teachers would receive the vaccination as quickly as possible.

School Board President wants to keep hybrid model

Students in Lake Havasu City have had the option to learn both remotely and in the classroom during the pandemic, a model that Lake Havasu Unified School Board President John Masden said he wants to keep in place.

“Our first job is putting our students first, and that’s what we’re trying to do here,” Masden said in a Monday phone call. “We’re not trying to open the doors and pile kids in.”

Masden said the district has been following guidance on school re-openings from the county’s health department, which tracks and reports local infection rates.

“We should be looking at something other than keeping classrooms open just for the sake of keeping them open,” he said. “We’ve done a good job so far of keeping the schools open using the hybrid model.”

Distance learning widens state’s achievement gap

Ducey said the state is facing a widening achievement gap made worse by distance learning. Trends show the gap often falls down economic and racial lines, Ducey said.

The Governor referenced a report released by the group Greater Phoenix Leadership (https://www.gplinc.org/) that in part states 80% of Arizona counties have a higher dropout rate among students of color. (https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5fe21d5c308a7b1ecd121e35/t/5ff8f5f96aadcc4303f88d00/1610151442322/Education+Game+Plan+Presentation+.pdf)

“Let’s direct resources to helping these children catch up - summer school, longer school days, one-on-one targeted instruction, tutoring,” the governor said during the State of the State. “It should be our goal that every student graduates high school on time and at grade level.”

For Lake Havasu Unified School District, 81.72% of hispanic students graduate, 83.33% of students identifying with multiple races graduate and 88.59% of white students graduate. The District did not report data for other races, citing student privacy concerns, according to Arizona School Report Card data.

The Governor’s Office of Education has previously reported that if the state increased education attainment by 60%, it would lead to $3.5 billion in statewide personal income growth. (https://education.azgovernor.gov/edu/progress)

Calls and emails to the Lake Havasu Unified School District’s Administration Office were not immediately returned Monday.

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