TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Pima County is urging districts not to reopen schools for in-person learning come Aug. 17.
That target date, originally set by the State of Arizona, has since been given some flexibility.
“Superintendent Hoffman and my goal: to make Arizona a model state in this situation, providing the best learning experience to kids in the safest environment during this crisis,” Governor Doug Ducey said during a press conference on Thursday, July 23rd.
The state is no longer withholding funds from districts that choose not to resume in-person learning on August 17th but is instead directing the Arizona Department of Health Service to develop benchmarks for a safe return. That report is set to be released by August 7th.
On Tuesday, July 28th, Ducey met virtually with superintendents across the state, including Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo.
“The governor did commit to supporting county health autonomy with regards to their ability to examine local data; county data, to make decisions to open schools,” said Trujillo during Tuesday night’s school board meeting.
This week, Pima County Administrator, Chuck Huckelberry, sent the following letter to area districts:
The letter says schools should “not open on August 17th for traditional face-to-face, in-person instruction” based on data from health officials. The explanation, Huckelberry says, lies in the facts; including the highest daily amounts of COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began, countywide transmission rates at 11 per cent when the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends rates below 5 per cent before reopening, and high hospitalization rates.
“Based off of that feedback; the direction that we received, I will be working with my team towards the immediate filing of the necessary [Arizona Department of Education] waiver,” Trujillo said.
TUSD plans to file a waiver that, if approved, would allow the district to postpone in-person learning. The district still plans to offer “limited in-person classes” for students considered “at risk”, as directed by the state. TUSD will define who is considered “at risk” during its August 11th school board meeting.
Pima County suggests in-person learning should not return before September 8th (at the earliest). In the meantime, the county says it will prioritize COVID-19 testing for school staff, students, and families.
“There will be the mass testing of school district employees very, very, very shortly,” Trujillo said.
TUSD will begin online schooling August 10th. Trujillo is a member of the Pima County Superintendent Task Force, which will establish the criteria for a phased return to campus.
Here’s what other districts are doing:
-Catalina Foothills School District says it will begin the school year fully online and will not open for in-person learning on August 17th. CFSD says it’s waiting for metrics from the Arizona Department of Health Services.
-Marana Unified School District will post up-to-date information on its reopening plan HERE.
-Amphitheater Public Schools says it is sticking with its current plan to begin the school year fully online. Amphi is waiting for metrics from the Arizona Department of Health Services.
-Sahuarita Unified School District says it’s “grateful for the guidance from Pima County”. The district is waiting for metrics from the Arizona Department of Health Services.
-Sunnyside Unified School District’s reopening plan can be found HERE.