Canyon Breeze

Canyon Breeze is one of the schools providing meals and online education. 

Two weeks ago, students in the West Valley went on spring break, but the rising concerns of COVID-19 prevented the normal resumption of classes as Gov. Doug Ducey ordered all schools closed until April 10.

Now, many students, teachers and parents are attempting to get their balance and find a new normal.

Ducey’s order for schools to continue providing meals and online learning has been a challenge for districts.

“Teachers are checking in with students every week. They’re calling them on the phone or texting them,” said Nedda Shafir, a Pendergast Elementary School District spokeswoman. “They’re celebrating their birthdays and checking in on their health and welfare.”

Pendergast has schools in Glendale, Avondale and Phoenix. 

Bernadette Smith is the mother of a 9-year-old at Pendergast school Garden Lakes Elementary in Avondale.

“The toughest part is with my little girl not going to school, and she is on the spectrum,” Smith said. “She needs constant direction, which holds me up on what I do. But that’s OK. I’ll take it.”

She said that she was impressed with how Pendergast handled the situation, saying the school district was very prepared.

“Personally, it’s been more challenging because (her daughter) has to change her routine; but as far as the educational provisions provided by Pendergast, it’s been a very smooth transition,” Smith said.

“They immediately provided online curriculum.”

Students and teachers are using Zoom, the online video chatting service, in the Pendergast district to hold meetings. Zoom has made the service free for educational use.

For students without resources for online education, Shafir said School Connect AZ is in the process of working with partners willing to donate computers and is working with Cox as an internet provider.

Smith also mentioned that her district made educational packets available to students.

She was impressed with the variety of education material available.

“Not only did the teacher have her material in there, but the special needs teacher that my daughter sees had material in there, too,” Smith said. “I was shocked how quickly they were able to put it together.”

Pendergast’s motto, “We bee-lieve in you,” has inspired people to make signs with the bee and positive messages.

“It just brings a smile to your face. We’re all in this together,” Shafir said.