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Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman warns it's too early to open schools

Posted at 6:21 PM, Aug 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-12 21:21:41-04

Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman took to social media Wednesday to tell school districts planning to offer in-person learning next week, don't do it.

Hoffman tweeted, "not following them (benchmarks) is a disservice to the educators who continue providing instruction via distance learning and families who are supporting distance learning."

The Department of Education estimates as many as a dozen schools or districts could reopen Monday. None have met the public health benchmarks Arizona's Department of Health Services established.

FULL COVERAGE: Safely Back to School in Arizona

On Wednesday, the Queen Creek District's Governing Board voted 4-1 to resume in-person learning on August 17.

Queen Creek student Rustin Brandon, who is in support of reopening schools, told ABC15, "they are teachers, this is their job and this is what they need to be doing. They need to teach us that way we can be educated in our future."

The district, who will continue to offer remote learning for students who want it, joins J-O Combs Unified in San Tan Valley, East Valley Institute of Technology and A-L-A Charter schools who also are scheduled to return to class Monday.

Superintendent Hoffman can only recommend school campuses remain closed. She cannot mandate it.

The benchmarks released last week require a drop in the number of COVID 19 cases, or less than 100 per 100 thousand for two consecutive weeks in the county where the schools are located.

When the test positivity rate reaches 7% or less for two weeks, districts can pursue a hybrid plan. It needs to hit less than 5% to resume traditional in-person learning. Finally, hospital visits need to be below 10% in the region.

The state saying all three metrics should be met before modified or hybrid learning can begin.

"We're just following ridiculous benchmarks," Lake Havasu City School Board member Nichole Cohen said Wednesday. Across the state, school boards like Lake Havasu City, are dealing with the pressures to reopen.

Cohen, who supports returning to on campus instruction said it's time for hard choices to be made. "It's easy for people who don't work or who are retired from work to say, 'If everybody would just do their part, we could get rid of this,' and there's no evidence to suggest that," Cohen said. "At some point, we are going to have to come up with an acceptable casualty rate, and nobody wants to have that conversation."

In the end, the Lake Havasu School Board voted to continue with remote learning.