TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Gov. Doug Ducey pushed for schools to return to in-person learning during his State of the State address and some local educators are voicing concern.
“We are all learning in a very productive way and he totally missed that in his state of the state address,” said Marea Jenness, a biology teacher at Tucson High Magnet School.
Ducey said the pandemic has taken a toll on students and wants them to return to the classroom as soon as possible.
“It’s time to get our students back where they belong. With every public-health professional, from Dr. Fauci and the CDC on down, saying that the safest place for kids to be is in school, we will not be funding empty seats or allowing schools to remain in a perpetual state of closure. Children still need to learn, even in a pandemic,” the governor said in his address.
Officials with the Tucson Education Association said it agrees learning in a physical classroom is best for students but not if it jeopardizes anyone’s health.
“There needs to be a plan,” said Margaret Chaney, the president of the Tucson Education Association. “Governor what is your plan?”
The association wants more guidance from the governor to help schools return safely.
“Here’s my immediate thought. Everybody needs to get the vaccine, the second shot before they go back. That would make things very safe,” Chaney said.
Chaney hopes bus drivers and teachers already working in buildings for special circumstances will get vaccine priority. Jenness said even after getting vaccinated, she is concerned about the risk returning to the classroom may pose to her students and their families.
“I’m still worried about my students who live in multigenerational homes who could easily bring this back,” Jenness said.
Pima County is preparing to enter its next phase of vaccine rollout, which includes education and child care workers. The state doesn’t expect the vaccine to go out to the general public until this summer or later.
KOLD News 13 reached out to the governor’s office Tuesday and received the following response:
“From the very beginning of this pandemic, our office has worked closely with public health officials and the Arizona Department of Education. This partnership has resulted in a plan that provides guidance and resources to schools to help them respond to the pandemic and keep students and staff safe. This plan was developed after many meetings and in consultation with school leaders and superintendents. It is statewide, and has been in place for some time now.”
The governor’s office said it has provided schools ADE’s Roadmap for Reopening Schools, ADHS’s Guidance for Safely Returning to In-Person Instruction, Governor’s Office “Open For Learning” and ADHS’s Mask Wearing Requirement for Schools.