Teachers, Arizona PTA respond to state’s school reopening guidelines

School benchmarks

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The start of the school year with remote learning is just days away for many local students. State health officials released guidelines for when school districts can safely return to in-person classes.

"Personally I'm vulnerable, I'm 60 and I have lung problems," said Marea Jenness, a teacher at Tucson High School. "I'm a sitting duck for COVID-19 and so I'm trying to be very careful with myself."

Jenness is a biology teacher and has taught for 18 years. Monday is her district's first day of remote learning. She's looked at the new recommendations for school districts and said the state should have released them sooner than yesterday

"It's kind of like a month late," Jenness said. "It would have been really good to have gotten some leadership about this."

The guidelines have several benchmarks for district to follow when returning to the classroom.

  • Two week decline in the number of cases
  • Two weeks with less than 7% positivity 
  • Two weeks with fewer than 10% of hospital visits due to COVID-19.

Even if the benchmarks are met, Jenness is doing all she can to ensure she can continue teaching from home.

"I've applied for an ADA modification to work from home until there is a vaccine that's in widespread use just because I am in that vulnerable category," she said.

Recommendations are also given for social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing.

"You want to have them like six feet apart," said Sergio Chavez, president of the Arizona PTA. "When was the last time that you've actually been to a school and seen how small these classrooms are."

Chavez said returning to the classroom just doesn't seem feasible anytime soon.

"I get the socialness of being around each other is something they need," he said.  "But I don't want to be present to see mass funerals."

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