Pima County Health Department to meet with school superintendents to establish guidelines for reopening schools

Learning during a pandemic

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Pima County Health Department is hosting a series of conversations with public school superintendents and charter schools to establish consistent guidelines for reopening Tucson area schools.

There is no specific date but guidelines will determine when the schools can go to Phase II, which is a hybrid plan or to classroom teaching again.

The metrics include a drop in cases of fewer than 100 per 100,000, a positivity rate of less than seven percent and hospitalizations which are close to normal.

“I think you’re looking a six to seven weeks at the earliest,” said Dr. Theresa Cullen, Pima County’s Medical Director.

And that’s just to get the metrics into the moderate level before any students are allowed in a classroom setting.

“I think they all need to be yellow before we can even consider going to hybrid,” Dr. Cullen said.

A hybrid would be a mix of classroom and teleclasses.

The county also laid out a series of six guidelines the districts can use to set up protocols and mitigation efforts.

The superintendents seemed to accept the guidelines but they will have several days to read them over, discuss them and come back Friday with other ideas or suggestions.

It isn’t known yet whether there’s universal agreement but Pima County Schools Superintendent Dustin Williams said “the goal is to have Pima County moving together in a unified front.”

Dr. Francisco Garcia, the Chief Medical Officer for Pima County told them that they need “to have tools in your hands and those tools are still being developed.”

Because science changes as more information is learned, it makes planning more difficult.

In the early days of the pandemic, it was thought young children were virtually immune from the disease.

“Starting at about week 20, when the stay at home order was lifted, that’s when we started seeing a rise in cases between 0 and 19 years of age,” said Dr. Garcia. “At it’s peak, we have 343 cases in that age.”

Those are the children who will be sitting in their classrooms, Dr. Garcia reminded the school officials.

Schools will always be called up to do some mitigation efforts he said and as time passes, those efforts will likely get looser but added they “won’t disappear in the next few years.”

“Regardless of what happens in the next two to six months, normal in the way we did normal before this, is probably not going to exist,” he said.

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