Unvaccinated students pose issues for school districts

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 10:22 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - As Arizona students head back to school for face to face instruction, the situation is being complicated by the now surging Delta variant.

Does it make a difference if the students are vaccinated or unvaccinated?

When establishing policy to determine whether they can or should be quarantined, it likely does.

But according to state law, districts cannot discriminate between the two.

“You can’t just solely use somebody’s vaccination status to keep them from in person learning,” said Dr. Cara Christ, the Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. “The quarantine is still a tool that is available to local health departments.”

The issue came to light last week when Arizona Governor Doug Ducey sent a letter to the Catalina Foothills District informing district leadership its policy of treating vaccinated and unvaccinated students is a violation of state law.

“The law prohibits you from discriminating against kids receiving in person services based on their vaccination status,” Dr. Christ said. “So when they get a case of Covid-19, its really the local health department that has the authority to quarantine or not.”

It’s likely health departments and not school districts will be the final arbiter of quarantine standards.

“Just beause somebody’s vaccinated, doesn’t mean they’re not going to be quarantined,” Dr. Christ said.

Complicating the issue is the fact that children 12 years and younger cannot be vaccinated. Those 13 and up will have some who have been and some who haven’t been. Making a consistent policy will be difficult which is why Dr. Christ said the districts “should be working with the local public health department’s to make that determination.”

Which is likely the direction the Tucson Unified School District will take.

“I think we’re going to be hearing from the Pima County Health Department,” said TUSD board member Adelita Grijalva. “They’re recommending the quarantine and once they do that, TUSD will follow.”

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