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Arizona Superintendent Kathy Hoffman speaks out about President Trump’s school reopening plans

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Posted at 10:15 PM, Jul 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-08 01:15:14-04

Kathy Hoffman, the Superintendent of the Arizona Department of Education, has responded to President Trump’s statements on reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

President Trump said during an education roundtable Tuesday that keeping schools closed could be considered a “political move” and that he is going to urge governors and others across the country to fully reopen schools.

In a statement, Hoffman says the president’s comments made Tuesday do not “reflect the magnitude or severity of Arizona’s growing public health crisis.”

Hoffman says that for schools in Arizona to reopen safely, COVID-19 must first be under control.

“In the last two weeks, our confirmed cases doubled from 50,000 to 100,000. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are up, and critical care services such as ventilators are at a record high use, Hoffman said. "The positivity rate in testing is between 25 percent to 30 percent - quadruple the 5 percent that experts recommend for making informed decisions about reopening.”

In May, the CDC issued guidelines for schools to follow during the pandemic.

The guidance calls for schools to monitor community spread of the coronavirus. In areas without community spread, schools are to monitor for absenteeism, continue with intense cleaning protocol, and require sick students and staff to stay home.

In the case of confirmed cases at schools in areas without community spread, the CDC recommends that schools assess the risk and prepare to close for 2-5 day periods if need be.

But in areas with significant community spread, schools are encouraged to undergo extensive social distancing measures, including extended closures.

Click here for the latest information on how districts across the Valley are planning to reopen for the upcoming school year.

Read Superintendent Hoffman’s full statement below:

"Educators, school staff, and families share the goal of reopening our schools and returning students to the classroom to ensure their physical, academic, social, and emotional needs are met. Like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC, teachers know that the best place for our students to learn is in the classroom. However, today's discussion at the White House Summit on Safely Reopening America's Schools did not reflect the magnitude or severity of Arizona's growing public health crisis.

"For Arizona to reopen school facilities for in-person learning, we must first get COVID-19 under control. In the last two weeks, our confirmed cases doubled from 50,000 to 100,000. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are up, and critical care services such as ventilators are at a record high use. The positivity rate in testing is between 25 percent to 30 percent - quadruple the 5 percent that experts recommend for making informed decisions about reopening. Today, Arizona has the highest infection rate per capita than any other state in the country - including New York during its April peak.

"And while young students may be at lower risk for infection, the educators who make learning possible - including instructional aides, librarians, bus drivers, nutrition workers, and more - are at risk, as are students with medical conditions. Those valued members of our schools need more assurances that schools and communities have the resources they need to stop the virus from spreading widely through their communities. Given Arizona's rising case numbers and the fact that Arizona remains open, I cannot provide those assurances for the adults and students who are medically vulnerable in our school communities at this time.

"I welcome more aggressive action from Governor Ducey and our public health officials to help mitigate the virus's spread. The reality of COVID-19 in Arizona means that reopening schools will be a community effort in which we all have a role to play. Stay home, maintain physical distancing, wash your hands, and wear a mask when you are in public. It is only with statewide action and personal responsibility that we will find a pathway forward for our students and educators to return to the classroom."