Coronavirus (COVID-19) information
October 6, 2021
COVID and Campus Updates
Last month, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health began providing COVID-19 self-test kits to districts, charter schools and private schools. Desert Heights submitted the necessary documentation to receive the new Over-the-Counter BinaxNOW Rapid COVID-19 Test with the goal of possibly minimizing COVID-19/close contact cases that result in unnecessary distance learning and time away from campus for our students (and staff). In support of this mitigation effort, our Governing Board unanimously approved this schoolwide initiative of offering tests to students on campus, provided that said student has a permission slip on file denoting that permission to administer the COVID -19 test on campus has been granted. Our Health Center Staff will administer the nasal swab test. For more information about our BinaxNOW Testing Plan, please visit our website!
September 8, 2021
September Community Correspondence
On September 1, 2021, Mrs. Miller sent out correspondence to our community regarding COVID-19 activity on our campuses. At that time, we had a total of 91 students impacted by a COVID case. I hope that all of you were able to take a moment to read her correspondence as we work to maintain a standard of transparency regarding COVID’s impact on our community. Unfortunately, schools across the country are shutting down as infection rates surge in classrooms and communities, predominantly in southern states. Given the uncertainty and proliferation of the delta variant, we simply do not know how long we will be able to sustain our present in person model of instruction. Our goal is to stay in person as long as possible without compromising the safety of our students, staff and families. Consequently, we will continue to review our mitigation efforts on all campuses and will continue to update our stakeholders on school mitigation measures, relevant school COVID data, and mitigation efforts you can take at home, and mask wearing. I would like to thank those of you who have supported our mask wearing request, as we are seeing a correlation between non- mask wearing students and COVID cases in our classrooms.
September 1, 2021
K-12 COVID Update
Dear Desert Heights Families,
We wanted to provide you with an update related to COVID cases on campus as well as protocols for mitigating the spread.
As of Monday August 30, 2021 we have had a total of 91 students impacted by a COVID case whether they were considered to be a close contact, or they were ill, or tested positive.
Breakdown of COVID data for Desert Heights
- Total enrollment K-12-937
- Total Positive Cases 8/2-8/31 (15 school days)-12
- DHPA students-9
- DHCS students-1
- Students/Staff isolated due to close contact or symptoms-76
What Does this Data Mean?
A couple of things that are relevant to mention regarding the data is that the number of students in required isolation only counts each student once; however, some students have been isolated more than once due to different close contact situations, which means the instances of close contact is a higher number. This data for a 3-week time period is concerning given that these numbers are similar to what we were dealing with in November of last year when we had to return to virtual for the holiday season. At that time, we had not yet reached 12 cases total for the whole school year.
School Mitigation Measures
We have continued our mitigation measures of deep cleaning, creating conditions for frequent air circulation, sanitizing between student groups, allowing students to eat outside wherever possible, capping enrollment in certain grade levels for spacing in classrooms, and isolating those with COVID like symptoms from others visiting the nurse’s office.
At Home Mitigation Measures
As a condition of enrollment at Desert Heights, you as parents have agreed to support our mitigation strategies to keep our students safe, healthy and in-person for learning. Please do not send your child to school ill, please check their temperature at home and if it is above 99.9 degrees, please do not send them to school. A fever is a symptom of COVID and students who’ve developed fevers quickly have ended up testing positive for COVID. Inform the school immediately if your child has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID. Follow isolation and quarantine protocols. While those protocols are extremely frustrating and inconvenient, not following them could mean being in a situation where your family is impacted by having to isolate repeatedly, or even contracting COVID.
Mask wearing is optional on campus and in classrooms; however, Federal Law requires they be worn on all public transportation. Mask wearing is highly encouraged for 2 major reasons.
1.If someone tests positive but was wearing a mask and comes in to contact with your child who is also wearing a mask, the CDC does not require your child to isolate.
2.We have had a classroom where 4 students have tested positive for COVID. All close contacts that were consistently and correctly wearing their masks have all tested negative.
As of now all instruction for those in isolation or quarantine is asynchronous and is provided by their teachers through course content. There will be things your child is unable to do independently. In that case, the teacher will work with them to make those items up when they return. You are also welcome to reach out to the teacher if you are wanting to know more to help instruct your child at home.
We are launching Parent University this year. This will be a way in which you can watch videos created by our teachers and staff showing and explaining how to teach and practice very specific and important grade level concepts.
If we are forced to return to virtual learning due to an outbreak or a county requirement to do so, we will be providing iPads for every student enrolled. They will be equipped with the apps and materials needed for your child and are supported by our technology department. At this time, our 2nd-12th grade students are already in a 1-to-1 student to iPad scenario, but we are waiting for the K-1 iPads to arrive. In the event that we have to make a quick pivot to virtual learning, we will need to know a few things about your internet access at home. We would like every parent/guardian to complete this survey for each child, so we are best prepared to support your family.
Click the link to complete the quick survey for each child. (Please contact our front offices if you are needing to take this survey)
Clubs and Athletics
We recognize the weight of the last year and a half has been very heavy on our kids, so we are trying to balance offering the clubs and athletics we’ve been able to offer in the past with maintaining safety. We’ve decided that our students’ social and emotional well-being is extremely important and these outlets support our kids’ mental health and wellness. Therefore, we will be offering after school clubs with a limited number of students able to enroll in each. Cleaning measures, sanitization measures and distancing will be required, and again we encourage masks in order to allow students to continue in person without having to isolate or become ill. Information about sign ups will be going out today as well.
Thank you all so very much for your support, commitment and understanding as we navigate another tumultuous year. We are committed to ensuring we continue to offer quality education and family support. Proud to be part of this Coyote Village!
August 14, 2021
Community Correspondence for August
Dear Desert Heights Family,
As a community, we have experienced great challenges. As a family, we have persevered despite the challenges. Presently, our communities are facing an old nemesis that appears to be much stronger and aggressive and is targeting a much younger demographic. I want to thank all of our parents who have expressed concerns and offered ideas regarding what measures we can take to protect our communities from the spread of the COVID-19 Delta Virus. On a personal level, I have struggled mightily with this situation, as have our entire administrative team. Do we defy state leadership and executive orders as some districts are doing? Can we afford to risk punitive consequences like funding disruption if we do require mask wearing on campus? Do we stand idly by and hope that our students and staff are not the victims of close contact situations as many go without masks?
I am hopeful that by now, you, our stakeholders, trust that we do not wish to create division in our communities by appearing to be anything other than concerned for the health and well-being of our family. We do not wish to convince anyone that the virus is real or contrived. We do not wish to perpetuate any theories regarding the efficacy of the vaccinations or who might be getting rich as a result of the push to get vaccinated. We do not wish to devalue the horrific experiences that many families have faced losing loved ones. We just want to do whatever we can to keep our schools open. It is that simple. And we need your help to accomplish this.
On Friday, I met with our entire staff to ask that we all commit to wearing masks while on campus, even if vaccinated. I talked about a family’s accountability to one another even if there are fundamental differences in philosophy or belief. Presently, we are experiencing COVID exposure on both campuses despite our mitigation efforts. My ask of you is that you please consider sending your child(ren) to school wearing a mask even if they are vaccinated. Data suggests that even those who are vaccinated are contracting the Delta Virus at alarming rates. IF we stand idly by and do nothing, our campuses will be forced to close as a result of a shortage of staff, significant close contact situations and actual positive COVID cases, or eventually by state mandate. If our collective goal is to avoid a return to last year, we must take every measure to keep our schools open. I do not know if our students, staff, or parents are psychologically and emotionally prepared for a return to Virtual Learning.
Please…please consider supporting our efforts to stay on campus. Our students have been so happy to be in school. Their ability to do so is absolutely crucial to their overall development and mental stability. Please consider a return to wearing a mask on campus. If you have had a close contact situation or a positive test, please the appropriate staff member based on grade level, Ms. Bentley, and Ms. Viar for Preschool students or Mrs. Miller or any of our Health Center Support Staff for Kinder through 12th grade students. Any information disclosed will remain private. We are working to update our COVID information page on our website and anticipate that it will be up next week. Let’s come together as a family to keep those we love, the communities we love, as safe as possible under such challenging circumstances.
Optimistic and grateful,
August 4, 2021
Masks will continue to be optional but are recommended for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals while indoors, during times of substantial or high transmission, per the CDC and Arizona Department of Health Services. Parents can view the transmission rates in our community on the Maricopa County Department of Public Health dashboard for schools. Despite these recommendations, under present Arizona State law (A.R.S. 15-342.05) Desert Heights Charter School District cannot require face coverings for students or staff inside our schools. Students who use our transportation systems (buses and vans) are subject to a federal law that requires staff and students to wear masks throughout the duration of their transport, as this is considered public transportation.
August 4, 2021
Campus Virus Mitigation Efforts
We know that our recent decision of asking parents not to be on campus was upsetting for many. Rest assured that upsetting you was not our intent when this decision was made. We do understand how difficult not being able to walk your children to their respective classrooms for the first week of school can be. We also realize that this can create anxiety for you and your child. Please communicate with our office staff or your child’s teacher if your child is experiencing any separation anxiety and we will do our absolute best to help them acclimate and work through whatever they are experiencing. Last year, we respectfully requested that parents not be on campus and our community responded with tremendous support. By returning to this mitigation strategy, we hope that we can minimize the potential spread of COVID-19 by reducing the activity on our campuses. Thank you in advance for your support and understanding and know that our hope is to lift that campus restriction as soon as COVID-19 trends suggest that we can without compromise.
This summer, mitigation was a focal point of our planning. We were able to install new ac units on all charter campus buildings, thus improving the circulation of air and enhancing the air quality our students will be exposed to. We will also continue CDC recommended cleaning protocols on a daily basis to promote an environment most conducive to a safe and healthy school environment. Soon, we will be adding a COVID-19 Communication link to our website that will maintain current information from the CDC, the Arizona Department of Health Services, and the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. And in the spirit of continued transparency, this link will also provide specific information regarding positive cases, home isolation guidance and quarantines in our community.
July 7, 2021
Desert Heights Governing Board Updates
On June 29, 2021, our Governing Board voted and approved the following agenda items:
Mask wearing will be optional on all campuses effective July 2, 2021
Desert Heights Charter Schools will not offer online instruction for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year unless directed to do so by the Governor's Office
Rest assured that we will continue to prioritize safety and cleanliness on all campuses and will continue to implement recommendations for school safety made by the Arizona Department of Health Services and the CDC.
April 7, 2021
April Correspondence from Mr. Jiles
Dear Desert Heights Family,
On 3/25/2021, Governor Ducey issued Executive Order 2021-06, rescinding county and municipal mask mandates and business restrictions established in prior Executive Orders. However, per the Arizona Department of Health Services, the AZDHS Emergency Measure upheld requiring mask use in K-12 schools. This emergency measure is still in effect, and it appears that it will be so for the unforeseeable future. Consequently, we ask that all members of the Desert Heights Charter School community continue to abide by the mask mandate while on school property or while attending any school related activity. Masks must be worn on school and preschool campuses, on school buses and during school-associated activities by all students, faculty, staff, and visitors. We will continue to update our community on mask mandate requirements as information from the AZDHS becomes available. I would personally like to thank all of our stakeholders who have committed to doing their part to mitigate the spread of the CoronaVirus in our community!
February 10, 2021
Phase Update for Desert Heights
We are back in Phase 3 on February 16th! We are very excited to have students back on campus and in their chosen learning modality. As a staff we have agreed that we want to be able to maintain Phase 3 for the remainder of the year, which is why it was so important to give the staff a bit of time to get the vaccination if they chose to do so. Those staff members who have gotten the vaccination will not be required to quarantine in close contact situations unless they are experiencing symptoms. This will mean more stability in staffing and greater chances of being able to maintain in person learning. Please help is make this happen by doing your part!
Thank you to all of the families in our community who have reached out in support of our staff and offered to help in any way they can! We are very grateful for your kindness. patience and support. This year has been the hardest we've all experienced, but together, we can handle anything!
Important Reminders Phase 3
Parent Choice: Students who chose virtual will remain virtual.
Masks: Due to the Governor's Executive Order requiring masks, we must still require them in person. Even those who have received the vaccination are still required to wear masks. Please be sure to send extras with your child, they often break or get dirty. All of our families have done a great job with this to this point, so thank you!!
Dress Code: Please be sure we are back to full uniform and dress code upon return to Phase 3. Black or Khaki dress bottoms, white, burgundy or black polo shirt, leggings can be worn under dressed or skirts but not as a bottom. Jackets worn in the classroom must be uniform color.
Materials Needed: Please send your child with all supplies they brought from school to home for virtual learning; water bottles (2), snack for snack-recess break, extra mask, lunch or order lunch by deadline.
If you are returning in person on February 16th and have a school issued device, we will need you to return it to the tech department. The team sent a sign up out for this, please be sure you schedule a time. These devices are needed on campus for testing etc.
January 13, 2021
Virtual Learning for High School
I am sending this email to provide you with information and shed more light on the direction of high school at this time. Starting Tuesday, January 19th, our high school program will return to Phase 2 hybrid (Grey and Maroon) days. We will have a Friday plan that supports AP students, Dual Enrollment students, and students needing remediation in specific courses, while offering asynchronous opportunities. We have a goal to return to Phase 3 as a full community on February 16, 2021 so in person students can be on campus full time and virtual students can still be supported virtually.
Students who have selected to be virtual learners will continue in the updated schedule we have created with direct instruction to support their learning needs. We hope everyone has seen more support in these classes and we can’t wait to get you all back on campus, we miss you all so much. Our high school team has continued to discuss the pros and cons in every situation and scenario and are ready to get our students that have chosen the in-person learning to back on campus in the safest environment that we can create. Over the last few weeks, we have assessed every angle and believe we are ready to accommodate the return. High school is very different and has different needs when discussing credits, graduation requirements, testing requirements, and so much more.
I want to remind everyone that there are some nonnegotiable items such as face masks on the correct way and covering the nose when on campus. Students will continue being socially distant in classes and we will have no more than 10-12 students in specific classrooms. We did assess the room dimensions and floor plan and we can safely have up to 12 students in a class. We have two classes with 11 students and have set up for these classes to be in compliance. Students, it is important that you stay socially distant in classes and complete passing periods in our one direction plan so we can minimize all exposure. It is imperative that everyone abide by our mask policy 100% to keep us all safe and in compliance.
I do want everyone to know in this phase, teachers will be able to walk in classes and support more 1:1 using the desk shields and masks. Teachers will also determine if they will utilize combination teaching or split teaching to best support our virtual and in person learners.
Combination Teaching: This is having the in person and virtual students in and on classes at the same time for the instruction, activities, and full class. In person (Grey) and online (Maroon) each day Monday-Thursday, so students have the full instruction, and you continue to move in content evenly.
Split Teaching: Teach directly to in person students on their scheduled day and then provide required online 30-minute check in to the opposite students. This means you would send invites to the opposite students that are home to get on the last 30 minutes of your class for attendance, checking for understanding, assignment review, or even a quick review. Mainly the 30 minutes is allowing the students at home but wanting to be in person to have accountability and support since they are not on campus. They will still need to be provided with asynchronous work in course content.
Advisors will be emailing the Grey and Maroon groups this Friday as a reminder to everyone. It is very important everyone remember that next Friday, January 22nd is a full day (B day) because we have Monday off in observance of Martin Luther King Day. Tuesday will be an A day and we will have Grey students on campus Tuesday and Wednesday and Maroon students Thursday and Friday. Essential students that have been attending will be permitted to be on campus the entire week for support.
January 13, 2021
Virtual Learning Update for Kinder-8th grade
As you know, our Administrative Team meets consistently and has been monitoring the Health Department's Benchmarks for schools. We consider these benchmarks, along with the needs of our community, to determine our next steps. No decision is made lightly, and we know that in some cases, there are hardships caused and sacrifices being made. At the top of my list of goals is a desire to ease us through this time by providing support and offering resources as much as possible. Please let me know if you have a need. If you are more comfortable doing so, reach out to a teacher or other staff member. We may not be able to solve all of the problems, but please know that we will do all that we can.
Thank you for your tireless efforts to work with us to make school a reality for our students, even if it is done virtually, and for trusting us with the education of your children. Though we know more about being effective than we did back in March, we are still learning and making adjustments as needed. Your feedback helps to guide us, so thank you to those who have shared it, and thank you in advance to all of you for continuing to make us aware of what we can celebrate and what we can do better. We know that virtual learning is not ideal for everyone, just as we know that no one instructional method works for all. We continue to do our best and are proud of our community for collaborating with us!
It has been decided that Kinder through 8th grade will remain in Phase 1, with support services and campus availability for our essential and vulnerable student populations, and our target date to return to Phase 3 is February 16, 2021.
November 17, 2020
Virtual Learning Update
At this time our K-8th graders will remain in a Phase 1 status, with some exceptions for vulnerable student populations. Students will continue virtual learning through the end of the holiday season. An update will be provided again prior to the December Winter Break, which begins on December 21st. During this phase we will offer a location for our essential student population and the vulnerable student population who received this support at the start of the school year.
9th-12th grade will move into Phase 2, which provides full social distancing in class, as there will only be 10 students in each room. Students will be assigned a hybrid code in which indicates the days they will be on campus. When students are not on campus, they will be learning from home during live instruction with their teacher. Please see Miss. Martins newsletter on more information on what this phase looks like for our high school population.
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