Arizona school district postpones start of school after teachers refuse to return amid pandemic

SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. (KPHO/KTVK) - Teachers in one Arizona school district refused to go back to the classroom on Monday.

The move forced the district to cancel both online and in-person classes for that day. They simply don’t have enough staff. Many teachers say it just isn’t safe yet.

The move is getting mixed reaction from parents.

Teachers in the J.O. Combs School District banded together and took a strong stance against in-person learning.

According to the district, more than a 100 staff members called out on Monday.

“I was proud of them because they do have to have a voice. Teachers are in a position to have a voice, and they just weren’t being heard,” said former J.O. Combs teacher and parent Lila Gonzalez. “I was glad that they did decide to take a pause for Monday, because this is going to impact our community as a whole.”

She said this wasn’t an easy decision for teachers: “They have been in tears. This has not been easy for them.”

The move isn’t going over well with other parents eager to get their children back in the classroom.

“I don’t want my daughter to lose the drive for school. I don’t want her to not want to learn anymore, and that is what is happening,” Amber Bachmeier said.

Her daughter is going into third grade. She says online school is now impacting her daughter’s mental health.

“To see your 7-year-old cry because she is stressed out and doesn’t understand how to do something, it is sad to watch,” Bachmeier said.

J.O. Combs and Queen Creek school districts both voted to return to in-person learning despite not meeting the state’s benchmarks.

Dozens of Queen Creek teachers have already resigned, including the president of the district’s teachers union.

“it was a very heartbreaking decision,” Jacob Frantz said. “We spend years of our lives dedicating ourselves to these students and building relationships with our coworkers.”

In-person learning was set to start in Queen Creek on Monday, but uncertainty looms for parents in J.O. Combs as they wait for an update from the district.

“These teachers are one of the most essential workers out there. This is our kids. This is our future. I don’t understand how they can just walk out,” Bachmeier said.

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