While Payson schools were ordered closed through the end of the school year due to the coronavirus pandemic, teachers and staff were busy back at work last week.

Since Monday, March 23, teachers have been working remotely from home while many administrators and office staff are working in the schools to get copies made and packets out to students.

On Wednesday and Thursday last week, Payson schools offered drive-up service so parents could pick up homework for their children.

At Rim Country Middle School, principal Jennifer White said they had prepared 110 packets, mostly for students who don’t have access to a computer or the internet.

Two office aids and White were busy printing the information out. They had to coordinate who was using the copy machine, so they didn’t get close to each other. The school has 580 students and for those that have a computer, they can access their assignments online through Google Classroom.

Six others in administration were working at the school last week while teachers were working from home, White said.

“The teachers are doing fantastic,” she said. “There are so many unknowns, but the staff is doing an amazing job trying to provide for the students.”

At Payson Elementary School, staff was so busy printing off work for students they had already jammed one of the copy machines.

Every teacher, including PE and music, had compiled a packet of work for the 550 K-2 students that should last the next three weeks.

As one vehicle pulled up Wednesday, attendance secretary Diana Wilcox recognized several students inside. She asked if they were missing school to which they laughed and yelled “No!”

Wilcox said she missed them, waved and they drove off — a thick packet of activities to help keep them busy in tow

On Monday, Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman announced the extension of Arizona school closures through the end of the school year.

The extension follows updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and an announcement from the White House extending physical distancing guidelines until April 30.“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,” said Ducey and Hoffman said in a joint statement. “These efforts are crucial, and we recognize that schools are making every effort possible to continue providing instruction during closures. We also thank our legislative partners for passing legislation ensuring all educators and staff see no disruption in pay. Our No. 1 priority will continue to be health and safety, and we will continue to work closely with public health officials to make the best decisions for kids, families, and our school communities.”

PUSD teachers and staff say they are working to keep students learning at home – even if it does not count for a grade.

On March 27, Ducey signed legislation to “support schools during closures, ensure school letter grades are held harmless, suspend statewide testing requirements, ensure school days are not extended into the summer, require learning opportunities for students to continue, and ensure teachers and staff see no disruption in pay as a result of COVID-19.”

That same week, the governor joined Hoffman to launch Arizona Enrichment Centers, which will offer childcare for first responders, critical health care workers, and essential public sector workers, including child safety workers.

Find additional information about meals for kids, childcare, special education considerations, learning resources for families and educators and more at azed.gov.

Contact the editor at abechman@payson.com

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