•  Good afternoon;

    As most of you already know, I am your Superintendent of the Balsz School District, Dr. Arleen Kennedy.

    As the summer season begins to descend into fall and we begin to finalize plans for the 2020-2021 school term, I think that it is important to share with you the Balsz School District School Re-Opening plan and to clarify any misconceptions about the path that we must take.

    To begin with, we must always remember that the primary goal of education is to provide the best learning platform in the safest and healthiest environment for both staff and students. We must always consider the health and well-being of the Balsz family of educators, while not abandoning the needs of our students. Many of which depend on our love, guidance and support to inspire them to be their best selves.

    The Balsz School District is building a foundation for success that ensures that all decisions are made with resolve and a steadfast will to close the achievement gap. It is the responsibility of the Superintendent to maintain a sense of normal for students, staff and the broader community. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has challenged the normalcy of education across the nation and has put our district in a precarious situation. COVID-19, in its path of destruction has led me to strategically deliberate and make the challenging decisions.

    As an Elementary School District, we find challenges in ensuring that our population of students receive our best efforts at meeting their social, emotional and educational needs. Our students love us as much as we love them. They crave nurturing environments and see our schools as a safe haven in their lives. And we must acknowledge this.

    As such, we will create a new normal, rooted in creativity, innovation and origination. We will create imaginative strategies that will engage our students, regardless of the medium by which they will receive their instruction.

    Because the Governor and the Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman have granted school districts the ability to craft their individual learning plans and in accordance with the law, the Balsz School District has decided on the following district-wide re-opening plan(s):

    The Balsz School District will offer remote learning for its students until at least the end of the first quarter. Students will utilize our on-line program and we will provide teachers with the opportunity to impart learning through virtual instruction.

    The Balsz School District will also include in the learning plan an additional option for parents who have to have their students in a school setting the ability to be on our campuses. Students will still receive the on-line instruction through the virtual learning program, but will have the opportunity to utilize our clean and safe environments.

    Either option comes with the limitation that parents can only change their student’s learning setting at the end of a quarter.

    Providing these options will ensure that all students and their families will have options concerning whether or not they need our buildings in order to meet their needs. This also provides for classified staff and other employees to have the opportunity to return to work without affecting their ability to care for their families as well.

    Staff members will begin professional development on August 3, 2020, regardless of their learning platform option. Trainings will occur for all staff members to make sure that if schools are shut down again that all staff members are prepared to transition to virtual learning.

    The Balsz School District is committed to providing these options that allow individuals who want the online platform to not have to return to the school setting until safe, while ensuring those who wish to return to work in the school setting will not to be forced to stay at home.

    Because Governor Ducey’s latest Executive Order (51) requires the 180-day school term, the modified Balsz School Calendar will ensure that we will meet all of the days required for this school year. We will begin the school year on August 17, 2020 and end on June 3, 2020.

    Parent notification of our final plans and the expectations will occur on Tuesday July 28, 2020 through Thursday, July 30, 2020.

    Technology distribution will take place beginning the week of July 27, 2020.

    In addition to our learning plan, the 14 surrounding school districts have agreed to temporarily suspend open enrollment for students. This helps to ensure that we do not lose our students to neighboring districts seeking enrollment growth. Once the threat of the pandemic subsides, we will return to the open enrollment process.

    We are in the process of counting exact numbers of families whose students will need to utilize our buildings and determining the number of staff who opt to return to the buildings and support this learning platform. Staff members need to complete the survey sent out on July 23, 2020 so that we may construct staffing for the on-line classes and create the building protocols that will support those staff and students that are in the buildings.

    I would like to thank the Boys and Girls Club in the Balsz community that have offered to support our classroom social distancing practices by allowing us to include the use of their facilities and staff in our planned schematics.

    We are also working with several agencies and support systems like Mt. Park Health, UMOM, Valley Del Sol, the City of Phoenix, the Assistance League and the Balsz Community Foundation, just to name a few, to help support all student academic needs. These agencies have pledged support in various ways during this time of crisis.

    Of course, we all know that press conferences can change plans on almost a weekly basis and we will adjust and modify accordingly. We will also keep all staff members well informed should the changes significantly influence either learning platform.

    Please see the link to Frequently Asked Questions to find the answers for many of the questions that you may have. Please also seek out your building principal and/or supervisor who can answer your questions as well. You may certainly reach out to me via my Executive Assistant, Ms. Maricela Siordian.

    I am looking forward to a great school year with amazing results. We can continue to be a positive influence on the lives of our students, while we overcome the traumatic effects COVID-19. We can provide quality lessons and create a new approach to successful teaching and learning practices. This is an opportunity for our public school system to hit the ‘reset’ button and create new ways of teaching and rigorous ways for learning. This I believe we can do, if you “Believe in Balsz”.

    Thank you!