Amphitheater School District delays hybrid learning

Amphitheater School District delays hybrid learning
File photo of empty school desks. (Source: Marissa Voss)

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Citing Pima County’s COVID-19 case rate, Amphitheater School District will delay hybrid learning at least until Monday, Feb. 15, 2021.

Superintendent Todd A. Jaeger sent a letter to the Amphi community Friday, Jan. 22, about the change. District students were scheduled to start a hybrid learning model Monday, Feb. 1, but Jaeger wrote that won’t happen until Pima County’s positive case rate falls by about 22 percent.

Jaeger also noted vaccinations among Amphi staff are not where he thought they would be. Right now, 70 of the district’s 1,900 staff members received the vaccine this week, less than the 190 vaccinations Jaeger expected.

Read the letter to the Amphi community below:

Dear Amphitheater Employees and Families:

When we made the decision to open in the Remote by Necessity model after Winter Break, the COVID-19 rate for Pima County was approximately 600 positive cases per 100,000 people. Today, Pima County Health announced that the number is 835 per 100,000. Clearly, our case rate is heading in a most negative direction. Indeed, most of the county and state metrics are similarly disappointing. Also disappointing has been access to vaccines for our teachers and staff. While we had anticipated seeing large numbers of our employees with their sleeves rolled up getting a much-anticipated vaccine starting this week, that has not materialized. For this week, the county originally allotted 190 vaccine appointments for our 1,900 employees. So far, they have been able to schedule about 70 of our staff for vaccinations. We hope that the county can speed this process in the coming weeks, but logistical and supply issues may interfere. At this point, given the current high spread of COVID-19 and the limitations of the vaccine program, I can see no path to safely opening on Feb. 1 as planned. While I know that other schools and districts have made different decisions, I have said from the outset of this pandemic that I would look to our state and local health officials and data to inform my decisions. The State of Arizona Department of Health Services, as of yesterday, is currently recommending that schools in every county in the state remain in virtual learning: https://www.azdhs.gov/documents/preparedness/epidemiology-disease-control/infectious-disease-epidemiol-ogy/novel-coronavirus/covid-19-school-benchmarks-county.pdf. While I firmly believe that our students need to be in school, I cannot turn a blind eye to the weight of all that is happening or to what medical and public health experts are advising. So what can change? How can we get to a place where we can confidently send our teachers, staff and students back to school in person? We need the positivity rate to decrease from its most recent level of nearly 22 percent. Health officials are hopeful they will see movement in that direction in the next two weeks, as we clear the spike from the holidays. Accordingly, based on this projection, we will now plan for February 15 as our new hybrid model reopening date. This won’t satisfy those of you who want us to open now, and it won’t satisfy those of you who want us to remain closed for the quarter or longer. We hear from you in equal numbers, and we understand the arguments for both. Make no mistake: we want to open schools; we need to open schools; and we will open schools. But, we can only do so when the decision is supported by the data and our health experts. It is my job to carefully balance the health, safety, and educational needs of our entire district community, and as difficult as it can be in these times, I am still proud and blessed to do it.

Thank you,

Todd A. Jaeger J.D.

Superintendent

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