Inside Look: School adapts with crowded cafeteria ‘classroom’

TUSD’s Rincon High School grapples with rising COVID cases
KOLD News 10-10:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 10:22 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Schools continue to tackle this latest wave of COVID cases.

We’re now getting a look inside a high school in the Tucson Unified School District where the cafeteria is jam-packed during class time.

Teachers report they’re simply tired of having to cover for other teachers out sick or exposed to COVID.

It’s an ongoing issue not only in TUSD but nationwide.

But now we’re seeing the impact at least in one local high school.

The video captured by a student at Rincon High School in the afternoon shows a packed cafeteria during class time.

The student reported to her parent that she’s been in the cafeteria almost all day.

She said it’s several combined classes and some students are standing because there’s no room.

That’s what another student told Delores DeVera when she subbed there on Friday, Jan. 14.

“I had a student walk in and she said that the class I was covering was the only one in the classroom and that she had been in the cafeteria all day. And if that was true that would suggest all of their teachers are out,” DeVera said.

The TUSD COVID dashboard shows 20 cases on Tuesday, Jan. 18.

Pueblo High School had a major surge on Jan. 11 with 82 cases, but has now dropped to 24.

The Rincon student who took the cafeteria video thought the district should close the school. But two board members explain that can’t happen right now.

“The state has taken away our authorization as a school district to shut down our schools,” Dr. Ravi Shah said.

According to Natalie Luna Rose, another board member, only the Arizona Department of Health Services can issue an order to close schools. The Pima County Health Department has the authority, but she said it must get the green light from the state.

“So our district, TUSD, will continue working with the public health leaders to make sure they have the data about our COVID infection rates so they can make the best decision on the public health side whether to keep our schools open,” said Shah.

As of Wednesday, Jan. 19, Luna Rose said, 11 staff members were out at Rincon. Four of those didn’t have substitutes.

“So those students are put in the cafeteria, but all parents are notified every time the district has to do that,” she said.

But the good news, Shah said, is that most TUSD schools are operating normally.

That’s reflected mainly in elementary schools, according to the TUSD dashboard.

Meantime, both say the district has strong COVID mitigation strategies.

“District administration has been on campus to help out and to supervise. to make sure school is running smoothly,” Luna Rose said.

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