Thursday, January 21, 2021
As the spread of COVID-19 in Pima County continues to reach dangerous levels, most public school districts in the Tucson area are pushing back previously set dates to resume in-person hybrid instruction.
The Arizona Department of Health Services is recommending all counties commit to virtual learning for students with online classes and some onsite support services.
ADHS made its recommendation based on three key benchmarks: cases per 100,000 individuals, percent positivity and hospital visits for COVID-like illness. All benchmarks are currently in a state of substantial transmission throughout the state.
In Pima County, ADHS data shows 8,983 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 of the population and a 12.3% positivity rate of the virus as of Jan. 21. The most recent data available on the state health department’s school benchmarks website shows hospital visits for COVID-like illnesses at 14.8% as of Jan. 3.
While most districts remain in remote learning models, Catalina Foothills has remained open for in-person learning since Oct. 26. The Marana Unified School District anticipates returning to hybrid instruction on Monday, Jan. 25.
Originally set to return to a hybrid model on Jan. 19, Amphitheater Superintendent Todd Jaeger announced in a letter to families on Jan. 4 that remote-only learning would continue until a Feb. 1.
After the county health department said it would not be able to provide guidance until it receives more data, Jaeger said he plans to announce an official return date decision Friday.
“It seems that there is no end to the frustration and difficult decision-making brought upon us by this pandemic,” Jaeger wrote in a letter to families. “I ask for your patience and understanding as we continue to evaluate the COVID situation and work with health officials to ensure we can move forward safely.”
Catalina Foothills returned to hybrid instruction at the end of winter break on Jan. 4.
Of the district’s seven K-12 schools, two elementary schools offer five-day in-person instruction. The other five schools offer hybrid learning with two days of in-person learning and three days of remote work. All schools offer a completely remote option.
“Catalina Foothills School District is open for in-person learning, just as we have since Oct. 26,” the district’s Director of Alumni and Community Relations Julie Farbarik said in an email. “The number of COVID-19 cases reported to our schools remains very low. Our teachers and families are carefully following our health and safety strategies like masking up, keeping apart, and staying home when sick. Their hard work is paying off.”
Farbarik did not say how many COVID-19 cases the school has seen since returning to class in 2021.
The district has pushed its return date to hybrid learning from Jan. 19 to Feb. 1.
The Emily Meschter Early Learning Center, the district’s preschool, remains open for in-person learning with a remote option. Most students attend four half days a week, Baker said.
Despite recommendations from the state health department, Marana plans to return to hybrid learning Monday, Jan. 25, said Alli Benjamin, director of Public Relations and Community Engagement.
According to the district's COVID-19 dashboard, Marana has 43 active coronavirus cases.
Sunnyside Unified School District
While Sunnyside originally planned to return to hybrid learning on Jan. 19, it will remain in remote learning until at least Jan. 31.
After the county health department recommended schools remain in virtual learning models for up to two weeks, the district’s governing board decided to delay in-person instruction until the health department announces it’s safe to return.
“We will continue to work with the PCHD over the next two weeks as they analyze the full impact of New Year's Eve and provide us with a date range for us to begin in-person hybrid learning,” Superintendent Steve Holmes wrote in a letter to Sunnyside families.
Tucson Unified School District
Tucson’s largest school district remains in a remote-only model and its governing board has yet to vote on a return date for hybrid instruction.
According to Tucson Unified's COVID-19 dashboard, the district has nine student coronavirus cases and 37 in-person staff cases.