Arizona became the seventh state to order the closure of all physical school buildings and the implementation of an online instructional model for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, but public school bus drivers at least should continue to receive paychecks.
A spokesman for the Arizona Department of Education confirmed to School Transportation News on Monday afternoon that legislation signed by Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday to ensure public and charter school teachers and school staff, including school bus drivers and any other district employees who are paid hourly, will remain in effect.
“Given the new executive order, school districts may find different work for employees or deem school bus drivers as essential,” said Richie Taylor, the communications director for Arizona Department of Education. “It will be a decision at the local level.”
No mention in the new law is made of contracted workers, but Taylor said school districts have the flexibility to pay local contractors under the school closure legislation.
“Those decisions will be made at the local level,” he added.
H.B. 2910, introduced by Rep. Michelle Udall, also allows school buses and other district transportation fleet vehicles to be used to perform operations “that are deemed to support students and their families during the statewide closure as determined by the public school.”
The law also states that public schools “shall attempt to ensure” that special education students who have individualized education programs or section 504 plans still receive access to services.
Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman made the cancellation official on Monday morning. The announcement cited new federal guidance issued on Sunday to extend social distancing through the end of April as the reason.
“[The closure] announcement is intended to give parents and educators as much certainty as possible so they can plan and make decisions,” read a statement released by Ducey and Hoffman Monday morning. “While this isn’t the outcome any of us wanted, we are grateful for the partnership of schools around the state, who have stepped up to offer virtual and take-home learning opportunities for our students.”
Kansas was the first state to order all school buildings closed for the remainder of the school year. It was shortly followed by Oklahoma, Alabama, Virginia, New Mexico, and Vermont, according to Education Week.
Editor’s note—A previous article incorrectly stated the school year in Arizona and other states was canceled.
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