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School leaders work to slow COVID spread as cases rise

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 5:04 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The number of COVID cases in southern Arizona schools is on the rise. Local school districts are working to slow the spread of the virus and make sure in-person learning can continue.

Dr. Manuel Valenzuela, the superintendent for Sahuarita Unified Schools, said nearly 300 students went into quarantine last week after being exposed to the virus.

“The whole situation has had an impact on us as far as the number of kids we’ve had to send home and the number of infections which have gone up in recent days,” he said.

He attributes sanitation procedures and social distancing for preventing higher cases number. Valenzuela said on average fewer than 3 percent of close contacts have tested positive. The school district doesn’t require masks.

“Maybe the third of the students are wearing them by choice,” he said. “We’ve given them that option and the majority of people have chosen not to wear them.”

The Marana Unified School District reported it has 135 active cases and 41 are at Estes Elementary. In a statement, the district said it has identified a large number of students at the elementary school as close contacts.

Alli Benjamin, the director of public relations for MUSD, said the widespread exposure closed eight classrooms. The district has started to cancel large in-person gatherings to help prevent further spread. Both Marana and Sahuarita said they’re working diligently to follow mitigation measures and keep students safe.

“Keep doing what we’re doing to educate kids, keep them safe,” said Valenzuela. “Not because it’s easy but because it’s the right thing to do and we’re just committed to continue doing that relentlessly.”

In a statement sent Wednesday, Nov. 17, Benjamin said there are no plans to close Estes Elementary.

“Estes Elementary School remains open at this time with in-person learning occurring for our students who are healthy and able to attend. We are not shutting the school down or transitioning to remote learning. While we had to shut down eight classrooms due to outbreak or widespread exposures beginning 11/08, the majority of students in the seven of the eight closed classrooms have already returned this week.”

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