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Benchmark Green Light: Why districts are waiting to open classrooms

Sunnyside's Superintendent explains why the state's criteria is not enough
Posted at 11:42 PM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-03 02:43:53-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Schools in Pima County could be given the green-light to start hybrid learning as early as Thursday. That's the word from the Arizona Health Department.

But it doesn't mean districts will jump to bring kids back to the classroom.

Pima County is on track to meet all three benchmarks set by the state -- case count, percent positivity and COVID-19 hospital visits.

Once that happens districts can open their classroom doors to most students.

But Sunnyside Superintendent Steve Holmes says not so fast. Pima County has it's own metrics, 9 of them, that are more stringent.

"The Pima County metrics that we've been using as a school district and many of us school districts have been using went yellow in areas that have turned green with the state," said Holmes.

Holmes meets with the region's superintendents at least once a week and all agree that they need to see the nine criteria in yellow before transitioning to hybrid learning.

Right now, they're concerned about timely COVID case investigations. "If those metrics are not in place it'll be hard to open schools. We can't contact trace and we can't test people," he said.

Holmes said once Pima County benchmarks are met, which he thinks could be within two weeks, districts will begin setting target dates between late September through mid-October.

Holmes wants to minimize any disruption in learning. "So for us it's making more sense to finish the quarter which ends the first week in October."

A fall break follows so he expects a return to classrooms on October 19th.

We've also heard from Catalina Foothills and Amphi districts. Both say they are following Pima County's benchmarks, but have given no estimated target date to bring students back.

No word yet from the other districts in the region.