By Debbi C. Burdick, Ed.D., Superintendent of the Cave Creek Unified School District

After a summer of meetings and discussions with parents, staff, and experts, CCUSD had its academic plans for Returning with Excellence as well as its Logistics Plan for mitigating the spread of the virus, approved by the Governing Board in July. While it felt like the COVID-19 information from the experts was changing day to day, CCUSD tried to be thoughtful and nimble, adapting as verifiable information became available.

The District convened three groups in the spring and summer to help make decisions to guide learning and safety. The Return to School Team studied the plans suggested by the Arizona Department of Education to determine the overall structure of the academic plans. This team was comprised of parents, staff and administration. Once they made recommendations, staff worked on the details for the academic plans. The Logistics Committee consisted of CCUSD staff that would be critical in maintaining safety. This committee included the District nursing staff. The Social Emotional Well-being Committee was staffed with parents and experts in the social emotional professions—both internal and external—to design a plan to support the wellness of students and staff. All members of these committees met countless hours to make sure they were researching and designing viable learning and safety protocols for the District. We cannot thank them enough for their time, expertise and efforts.

The final academic plans for CCUSD began on August 5, our official first day of school. For K-8 students, the choices were Option I: Distance Learning to begin the school year that transitions to in-person learning when the Arizona Department of Health Services’ metrics are met; and, Option II: the Academy of Excellence—a full-time online school for the entire school year. For Cactus Shadows High School, there were three choices—Option IIIA: Distance Learning to begin the school year that transitions to in-person learning; Option IIIB: Falcon e-Campus—a full time online school for the entire school year; and, Option IIIC: Falcon Specialty e-Campus—these students will not attend school in person with some of their classes accessible online through webcams. Currently, District-wide, we have almost 4,800 students signed up for Distance Learning to in-person classes and over 600 students signed up to stay online throughout the school year.

In addition, in the last two Executive Orders, school districts were asked to provide Onsite Learning for students in special categories, including students of first responders and those requiring special services, until school reopens for in-person learning. Onsite Learning is not an academic option like the school plans but more like a study hall where students have a safe place to be during the school hours while they access their classes online. The onsite learning is supervised by the CCUSD Education and Community Services Department as well as paraprofessionals and other staff, not our teachers since they are teaching their classes.

CCUSD cannot wait until school returns to “normal,” but until that time, we will continue to provide an excelling education, which is our hallmark.