Parents rally to send students back while Pima County Health Dept. advises against it

Despite meeting AZDHS benchmarks to move to hybrid-learning, PCHD says it’s a premature move

Schools on reopening

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - On Thursday, Sep. 3, 10 counties met the Arizona Department of Health Services’s recommendations to resume partial in-person learning, with two counties eligible to resume full in-person learning.

Pima County, alongside Cochise, Coconino, Maricopa, Navajo and Pinal Counties, meet requirements to begin a hybrid model of learning within public schools- joining Apache and Yavapai counties, as both met health benchmarks some days ago.

But despite meeting the benchmarks, the Pima County Health Department is advising against the return to school.

″I think that it is premature for us to move to that level of instruction,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia.

Garcia explained that the same benchmarks used Thursday that show we can move to a hybrid-model could change in a matter of weeks due to the unpredictability and spread of the virus.

“It’s better to not be opening and closing, but to be at a point when we know that that opening is going to stick,” said Garcia.

It’s hard to pinpoint when the right time will be to send students back, but Dr. Garcia said it’s clearly not now. And if parents and professionals want to get there, we can’t let up on our stringent mitigation measures.

“We are about halfway through what is a marathon which means there are 13.1 miles left to go.”

But some parents are fed up saying they want a say in the matter. Parents of the Marana School District rallied outside the governing boards meeting Thursday night as a part of the group “Parents NEED Choices Pima County.”

“It’s basically 6 hours on the computer every day,” said Alicia Duron, a parent of 4 children currently in the Marana School District at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. “I have to sit with them one on one with my little ones and then try to help the older ones, so it’s been very difficult.”

Right now Marana plans to return to a hybrid-model in mid-October, but organizer Amy Millett said it’s not good enough.

“Superintendent Streeter recently announced a return to a hybrid model of school in late October. That’s just not good enough. COVID-19 cases are decreasing and our neighboring charter schools are open! There is no understandable reason we aren’t making immediate plans to return to the classroom,” said Millett.

“That’s what we’re fighting for is the option,” said Duron. “For those who don’t feel comfortable, allow them to be online; but those who are ready, let us go back.”

Dr. Garcia said he is also very concerned with the growing number of cases at the University of Arizona. He said that it will have a negative impact on the states metrics which could put us right back in that “not ready” zone once more.

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