By Debbi Burdick, Ed.D.

The Cave Creek Unified School District (CCUSD) opened for in-person classes and welcomed back the majority of our students on September 8 after the Governing Board voted and reaffirmed the in person start date at their Monday, August 31 Governing Board Special Meeting. For parents who prefer their students to continue in online learning, a K-8 program named the Cave Creek Academy of Excellence is available through the school year, as well as similar online options at Cactus Shadows High School. A Logistics Plan on the CCUSD website outlines safety and cleaning protocols to help mitigate community spread of the pandemic, such as having all students and staff wearing masks in classrooms and whenever they are not able to physically distance outside of the classroom, as well as enhanced cleaning protocols for all classrooms and common areas.

Our CCUSD schools and classrooms feel very different than they have in the past. Although the COVID-19 benchmarks in our CCUSD boundaries has greatly improved, we do not want to see a resurgence of infections, especially for our students, staff and families. Besides masking, elementary student groups remain with their cohort group throughout the school day. Although middle and high school students still change classrooms for their various subjects, desks are wiped down in between class periods. All students use their own materials instead of sharing materials and, when there is shared use of technology, the devices are wiped down in between use. Students may move through interior hallways in one direction; passing periods may be extended; and arrival and dismissal of students is carefully orchestrated for fewer student interactions.

Our CCUSD families are asked to assist us by going through a symptom checklist before sending their students off to school that includes checking for a fever, headache, sore throat, fatigue or muscle aches, to name a few. CCUSD provided one cloth mask for every student and students are required to wear their mask at school as well as bring their own school supplies and a filled water bottle. As we have all heard repeatedly, good hand hygiene is of the utmost importance. Students will be instructed to do frequent hand washing, especially before and after eating and throughout the school day. Hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes are available in each classroom and through the campuses. At the end of each school day, the classrooms, common areas and school buses will have enhanced cleaning by sanitation professionals to ready our schools for the upcoming school day.

Although CCUSD has always prided itself on inviting our families and community into our schools, during the pandemic we hope our CCUSD shareholders will understand and respect that we will not allow any visitors on campus besides staff and essential personnel until the threat of community spread is gone. Sports have carefully resumed with restrictions. We continue to encourage use of virtual clubs and meetings and have postponed any student field trips until further notice. Despite all the restrictions, we are thrilled to see our students in person and allow them the personal interactions with staff and peers that we know they were missing. It is definitely a welcomed first step back to normalcy.