Gov. Doug Ducey issued an Executive Order on Wednesday requiring schools to return to in-person, teacher-led instruction by March 15, or after Spring Break. This comes as 12 of Arizona’s 15 counties, including Pima, are "in phases where all schools are safe to open." This includes district and charter schools. The majority of Arizona counties are still in the "substantial" category of COVID-19 spread.
“Arizona’s students need to be back in the classroom," Ducey said. "More than half of Arizona’s schools are open and offering in-person options. More schools need to follow their lead, and pave the way for equitable education options for every Arizona student."
However, an individual district may close if the local health department advises closure due to "a significant outbreak" of the COVID-19 virus that poses a risk to the students or staff, and is approved for closure by the Arizona Department of Health Services.
An exception is made for middle and high schools located in the counties with “high” transmission of COVID-19: Coconino, Yavapai and Pinal.
The Arizona Department of Health Services updated their COVID-19 School Benchmarks following the executive order on Wednesday.
Following CDC recommendations, schools should keep track of two metrics to track community transmission: cases per 100,000 and the percentage of positive nucleic acid amplification tests all in the last week. Both will determine whether a school has low, moderate, substantial, or high transmission. ADHS recommends elementary schools remain in hybrid learning if in the moderate to high range, while middle schools and high schools should offer virtual learning if high transmission, unless they are already offering in-person instruction and have few cases or have implemented mitigation strategies to keep cases down. Once schools reach moderate transmission, they recommend all K-12 schools open for full in-person instruction.
Several school districts in Pima County have already reopened schools or plan to reopen them before or after Spring Break. However, most districts offer several different methods of instruction, not a full-five days of in-person learning.
For example, as of March 1, Sunnyside Unified School District has almost half of their students attending school as part of their in-person hybrid program. These students are split into two groups, each attending school two days per week and one day remote. Other districts with varying hybrid programs are Amphitheater and Catalina Foothills.
School districts surveyed teachers, staff, parents and students in order to provide a method of instruction that would suit them. Parents with children attending Tucson Unified School District have until March 7 to decide the method of instruction for their child. According to a TUSD spokesperson, they are still reviewing Governor Ducey’s Executive Order.
View the executive order here.