Arizona’s governor is open to pushing back the start of in-person classroom learning for the new school year.
Sources familiar with the talks between the governor and educators tell us that the governor is open to possibly pushing the date past Labor Day.
This information coming out a day before the governor is expected to make an announcement as to what is next for schools reopening in our state.
School leaders, educators, and public health advocates are calling for Gov. Ducey to not rely on a date to reopen schools, but rely on public health criteria.
In a blog post by Will Humble, he wrote that we should use evidence-based criteria to determine if it’s safe to open K-12 schools.
Humble, the state’s former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, suggested a number of criteria that could be met.
In the blog, Humble wrote:
“Let’s explore the possibilities. Consider the 4 bullets below as the criteria that would need to be met to set a date to open schools for in-person instruction:
- A 30-day reduction in the number of new COVID cases in the community measured by a 7-day moving average;
- A community percent positive rate of less than 5% for 2-weeks measured by a 7 day moving average;
- Eighty percent of case and contact tracing investigations completed within 96 hours of sample collection over a 21 day period; and
- Community hospitals open for elective procedures.”
The Arizona School Board Association also sent a letter to Gov. Ducey asking for criteria, not a date.
In the letter signed by Dr. Sheila Harrison-Williams, the executive director of ASBA, writes that criteria should be met.
“In the White House Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, schools are recommended to remain closed until the phase 2 criteria have been met. We would propose that if the CDC phase-specific thresholds for phase 2 have been met, county health officials may allow schools to reopen to students. These criteria would include (simplified to account for phase 1 and 2):
- New Cases: A downward trajectory of documented cases of COVID-19 for at least 28 days.
- Percent Positive: A decrease in percentage of positive (COVID-19) tests for at least 28 days while maintaining a flat or increasing test volume.
- Robust Testing: Percent positive cases are less than/equal to 15% for at least 14 days consecutive days, and median time to obtain test results is less than or equal to three days.”
We reached out to the governor’s office to see if Gov. Ducey plans to include specific criteria. In an email, a spokesperson wrote, “the safety of our students, staff and educators is our top priority. Our goal is ensuring parents have options and schools have stability, while giving them the tools and guidance they need to make data-informed decisions.”
A spokesperson for the governor’s office did not provide more information on what ‘data-informed’ means, but they said more details are to come.
Superintendent Kathy Hoffman is also publicly calling for more aggressive action. Hoffman is also asking for a decision to reopen schools that is based on metrics and data, not a date on the calendar.
In a letter, the Office of the Superintendent wrote, “I’ve asked Governor Ducey to include, at a minimum, the following priorities in his upcoming plans to support our school communities.”