Good afternoon,
The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) would like to share several resources to help you prepare for a safe and healthy school year. After two challenging school years for students, educators, and leaders, we strongly encourage all public schools to use and layer all available tools to mitigate COVID-19 and other illnesses on their campuses.
Promoting Vaccination
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “achieving high levels of COVID-19 vaccination among eligible students as well as teachers, staff, and household members is one of the most critical strategies to help schools safely resume full operations.” Public schools are encouraged to promote vaccinations in your community to regularly educate your community of the benefits of vaccination. Public schools can use federal recovery dollars like Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to provide and incentivize COVID-19 vaccinations for teachers, staff, and eligible students.
Learn more:
Face Coverings Are Recommended
In accordance with the CDC and ADHS, face coverings are recommended and encouraged for individuals who are not fully vaccinated, including those aged two or older and currently ineligible for a vaccine. Consistent and correct mask use by people who are not fully vaccinated is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Please remember that while schools can no longer require face coverings, they can and should encourage consistent and correct mask use. Under the current state law, a family has the choice and agency to ask or require their child(ren) to wear a mask in school or while in other school facilities.
Physical Distancing
The CDC on physical distancing: “Because of the importance of in-person learning, schools, where not everyone is fully vaccinated, should implement physical distancing to the extent possible within their structures but should not exclude students from in-person learning to keep a minimum distance requirement. In general, CDC recommends people who are not fully vaccinated maintain physical distance of at least 6 feet from other people who are not in their household. However, several studies from the 2020-2021 school year show low COVID-19 transmission levels among students in schools that had less than 6 feet of physical distance when the school implemented and layered other prevention strategies, such as the use of masks.”
Screening Testing: Pooled Testing
The CDC recommends screen testing to identify infectious individuals, including those with or without symptoms (or before the development of symptoms) who may be contagious, so that measures can be taken to prevent further transmission. One screening testing strategy is pooled testing of cohorts. With federal recovery dollars, ADHS will fully support schools’ pooled testing program allowing the community to test every student, every week. ADE highly encourages schools to unitize ADHS’ free pooled testing program. 
Learn more by signing up for one of ADHS’ weekly webinars: https://ginkgobioworks.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_47KzgFa4R5mnhAK0xjzhIw
Staying Home When Sick
The CDC on staying home when sick: Students, teachers, and staff who have symptoms of infectious illness, such as influenza (flu) or COVID-19, should stay home and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care. Staying home when sick with COVID-19 is essential to keep COVID-19 infections out of schools and prevent spread to others. It also is essential for people who are not fully vaccinated to quarantine after a recent exposure to someone with COVID-19. Schools should also allow flexible, non-punitive, and supportive paid sick leave policies and practices that encourage sick workers to stay home without fear of retaliation, loss of pay, or loss of employment level and provide excused absences for students who are sick. If a student becomes sick at school, see What to do if a Student Becomes Sick or Reports a New COVID-19 Diagnosis at School.
Honoring Tribal Sovereignty
Public school districts and charters on or adjacent to tribal lands and those with staff and students affiliated with Arizona’s federally recognized tribal nations are encouraged to honor tribal public health orders. You can find more guidance from the ADE Office of Policy and Government Relations here.
Educator Peer Support Program
With the support of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), ADE encourages school leaders to ensure educator and administrator wellbeing by utilizing the Arizona Educator Peer Support Program. This free program pairs an Arizona educator or administrator with a trained peer educator who provides a safe environment for a confidential and informal conversation to alleviate the emotional stress and toll that always being “on” can take.

ADE encourages schools to layer and utilize all of these strategies listed in addition to the full list of strategies shared by the CDC in their Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools. Additional guidance for schools can be found on the ADHS COVID-19 Schools and Childcare Guidance.

ADE is here to help schools and students make the most of in-person learning during the 2021-2022 academic year. Please be on the lookout for a calendar invite for our weekly education leaders’ calls scheduled to start after Labor Day.
Best,
The Arizona Department of Education
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Arizona Department of Education

1535 W Jefferson Street, Phoenix, AZ