Thursday, August 6, 2020

High School Sports Are Coming Back Next Month

Posted By on Thu, Aug 6, 2020 at 4:16 PM

Ironwood Ridge senior running back Brandon Barrios runs downfield against Marana High School last October. - CHRIS HOOK
  • Chris Hook
  • Ironwood Ridge senior running back Brandon Barrios runs downfield against Marana High School last October.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association’s executive board approved the fall 2020 interscholastic athletics calendar during a special meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 5.

The AIA board voted for a staggered athletics season based on the information received from AIA member schools through a July online survey. Factors like student and personnel safety protocols that can be easily administered by athletic directors and coaches across the state helped board members reach a decision.

"The health and safety of our student participants, coaches, officials and essential personnel, including volunteers, is the primary concern for the return of interscholastic athletics and activities," AIA Executive Director David Hines said. "We are very grateful to those who share our commitment of a return to these highly beneficial educational activities and athletics."

Fall sports will continue to proceed under the out-of-season/summer rules as a part of AIA’s Bylaws and Policies until the first day of practice. The fall 2020 interscholastic athletics calendar will be shorted to accommodate for winter sports at the end of the year. All fall sports will still have an opportunity for a championship tournament.

The AIA Executive Board is made up representatives of member schools, each with concerns of how to proceed forward with interscholastic sports during the pandemic. While members brought up numerous concerns about the difficulty of creating a streamlined approach for schools statewide, they ultimately agreed upon the schedule below:

First Practice – Sept. 7
First Competition – Sept. 30-Oct. 3
Championships – Dec. 11/12 (4A-6A & Open)

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Thursday, July 30, 2020

Marana Unified School District Finalizes Back-to-School Plan

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2020 at 3:24 PM

The Marana Unified School District governing board today unanimously approved a plan to teach all grade levels remotely when school instruction begins Wednesday, Aug. 5.

MUSD Superintendent Dan Streeter said the district is working with the state Department of Education, the Pima County Health Department, Marana Health Center and other entities to ensure they are adequately prepared to begin the school year.

“Each of the superintendents throughout the county have been meeting with Dr. Cullen and Dr. Garcia and talking about what are those metrics that the governor referenced that make sense for a safe reopening in Pima County,” Streeter told the governing board.

Earlier this week, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry indicated that he, Health Department Direct Dr. Theresa Cullen and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia believe school cannot resume in-person before Labor Day, Sept. 7, at the earliest.

While the district’s plan is remote learning-focused, Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order for reopening schools specifies that each district must have an open learning center by Aug. 17 for “at-risk” students who need a place to go during the day. Special needs students will also have individualized schedules that may differ from the majority of the student body.

MHC Healthcare has been advising the district on what the proper protocols should be if positive COVID-19 cases are present on an MUSD campus, what contact tracing will look like and what the appropriate sanitary and face mask policies should be.

MUSD has also been working with Corgan, a national architectural firm, to perform “journey mapping.” Streeter said this will help the district identify each school’s high traffic areas, frequently touched areas, where hand sanitizer dispenser and handwashing stations should be established, and the best options for classroom layouts with physical distancing.

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Danehy: Push Back the Start of High School Sports

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2020 at 10:51 AM

An Open Letter To Governor Doug Ducey and David Hines, Head of the Arizona Interscholastic Association:

There are few things more important to a high-school athlete that his/her senior season. It is the culmination of years of preparation and it generates memories that last a lifetime. But now, due to a coronavirus pandemic that hasn’t been properly addressed throughout this country, untold numbers of Arizona’s high-school athletes are in real danger of suffering the same fate as the Spring athletes in the Class of 2020—the cancellation of sports and a gaping hole in their high-school experience.

There were ideas floated about flip-flopping Fall sports (football, volleyball, and others) with Spring sports (softball, baseball, track & field), with the thinking being that the latter are almost completely non-contact and would be safer while the pandemic was still active (or raging, as the case may be). This didn’t sit well with baseball coaches, whose players already lost last season and stood a good chance of losing the 2020-21 season, as well, should there be another flare-up. Some football coaches have signed a petition, asking that their seasons be moved.

There’s a better solution: Just move everything back.

Spend the next couple months starting the educational process, with the focus on getting kids back into school when it is safe to do so (for both students and teachers). Assume that science will come to the rescue with a vaccine late in this calendar year (and that there are enough people who aren’t crazy anti-vaxxers); it should be safe to start preparing for sports sometime after Thanksgiving.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Huckelberry Warns School Districts To Not Reopen for In-Person Learning on Aug. 17

Posted By on Tue, Jul 28, 2020 at 3:22 PM

  • Jim Nintzel
Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry today said schools should not reopen for in-person instruction on Aug. 17, based on the county’s current data on COVID-19 community spread.

In response, the Catalina Foothills School District announced today that it was cancelling in-person classes for the foreseeable future and moving to an online-only model.

Amphi and Tucson Unified School District have board meetings tonight and Marana School District is scheduled to have a meeting on Thursday.

Huckelberry sent a letter to all Pima County public school superintendents on Tuesday, July 28, to follow up on Gov. Doug Ducey’s recent executive order, which directed all county health departments to work with local school districts to determine when it is safe to return to school campuses.

“Clearly, County public health agencies with real time information and data regarding the pandemic are in the best position to offer public health advice regarding school activities related to managing the spread of COVID-19,” Huckelberry wrote.

He stated that Pima County is not ready for schools to go back to traditional learning, citing local COVID-19 infections which are at the “highest daily amounts since the pandemic began.”

Space in local hospitals for COVID-19 patients was nearly exceeded and critical patients had to be transferred to other hospitals in the state, according to Huckelberry. He said widespread testing for COVID-19 with quick turnaround times is only just getting started.

Huckelberry said county-wide transmission rates remain above 11 percent, while the World Health Organization recommends that rates be below 5 percent prior to a reopening.

Huckelberry, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia and Pima County Health Department Director Dr. Theresa Cullen believe the earliest start date for in-person instruction is after Labor Day, Sept. 7, or possibly early October.

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Friday, July 24, 2020

Ducey, Hoffman pledge flexibility, but say school doors will open Aug. 17

Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2020 at 12:30 PM

  • Courtesy Tucson Unified School District
PHOENIX – Arizona schools must open their doors to at least some of their students on Aug. 17, state officials said Thursday, but districts will have the flexibility to offer alternative schooling to students who want to stay home.

The announcement by Gov. Doug Ducey and State Schools Superintendent Kathy Hoffman follows weeks of uncertainty for school officials around the state, many of whom called the Aug. 17 reopening – already delayed two weeks – unrealistic and unsafe.

“School leaders and educators are under a tremendous amount of stress as they plan for the upcoming school year,” Hoffman said. “I cannot ask our educators and families to enter this school year without critical assurances, policies and resources to set them up for safety and success.”

The executive order Ducey issued Thursday says public health benchmarks for reopening will be released by Aug. 7 – just 10 days before the scheduled reopening. Ducey also announced an additional $370 million to help high-need schools reopen, including $40 million to expand broadband in rural communities.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Court rejects long-simmering challenge to Proposition 123 school funding

Posted By on Wed, Jul 22, 2020 at 2:00 PM

  • BigStock
PHOENIX – A federal appeals court Tuesday rejected a long-simmering challenge to Proposition 123, the voter-approved 2016 measure that is set to redirect an estimated $3.5 billion to Arizona public schools over a decade.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling in the case, which has been pending since the day after Prop 123 was passed by a margin of just 1.5%.

Phoenix resident Michael Pierce had argued that the state could not transfer funds from the state’s land trust, as the proposition does, without congressional approval and a federal district court agreed. But the appeals court said Tuesday that Congress made the necessary approvals in 2018, leaving Pierce “without a case or controversy,” and it reversed the lower court.

The legal challenges did not hold up the school money, but Chris Thomas, general counsel for the Arizona School Boards Association, said it is still “good to get this chapter behind us.”

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Your Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Wednesday, July 22: Total Cases Top 150K; Schools Awaiting Guidance from Ducey; Ducey Calls on Congress To Extend Unemployment Benefits

Posted By on Wed, Jul 22, 2020 at 10:18 AM

In today's coronavirus news: AZ has passed the 150K threshold in cases … hospitalizations are trending downward as Arizonans embrace masks … Gov. Doug Ducey is expected to give more guidance to schools tomorrow as State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman calls for metrics rather than calendar dates to determine when it is safe to return to schools … Ducey calls on Congress to extend the unemployment benefit that provides an extra $600 a week to out-of-work Arizonans … and more details below.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona crested the 150,000 mark as of Wednesday, July, 22, afteror the state reported 1,926 new cases this morning, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County had seen 13,900 of the state's 150,609 confirmed cases.

A total of 2,974 people have died after contracting the virus, including 392 in Pima County.

Maricopa County topped the 100,000 threshold today with 100,543 of the state's cases.

Hospitals remain under pressure, although they report in slight decrease in recent days in the number of Arizonans hospitalized with COVID-19-related symptoms. The report shows that 3,094 COVID patients were hospitalized yesterday in the state, down from a peak of 3,517 on July 13 but a slight bump from yesterday's 3,041.

A total of 1,369 people visited ERs yesterday with COVID symptoms, a jump up from Monday's 1,243 but still lower than the the peak of 2,008 on July 7.

A total of 870 COVID-19 patients were in ICU beds yesterday, a slight bump up from yesterday's 865 but still lower than the peak number of 970 on July 13.

Citing a drop in the total number of cases on a week-to-week basis, Gov. Doug Ducey said last week that mask-wearing and steps to reduce the interaction of people in large groups had resulted in some positive signs regarding the spread of the virus.

But Ducey warned the state still had a long road ahead in the fight against COVID-19.

"I want people to get their heads around this," Ducey said. "There's no end in sight today."

Figures from Pima County show that on a week-by-week basis, cases here may have also peaked in the week ending June 27, with new cases reaching 2,300. Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry noted that the two subsequent weeks could still be adjusted upwards, but during the week ending July 4, 2,092 cases were reported. However, Huckelberry noted that the week ending July 4, the county saw a peak of 37 deaths, up from 18 the previous week.

While coronavirus cases may be on a slight downward trend in the state, Ducey urged Arizonans to stay vigilant by staying at home and wearing masks while practicing social distancing when out in public to continue the fight against the virus.

"There will be no victory laps," said Ducey, who praised measures set by local authorities to require masks were helping to reduce spread, but once again stopped short of a statewide mandate.

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Thursday, July 16, 2020

Hoffman ‘not optimistic’ schools will be ready for Aug. 17 in-person reopening

Posted By on Thu, Jul 16, 2020 at 12:00 PM

  • Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons
PHOENIX – Arizona Schools Superintendent Kathy Hoffman said Wednesday that the already delayed Aug. 17 start of in-person classes may have to be pushed back again in light of continuing concerns about COVID-19 safety.

Hoffman, during a conference call to criticize a White House push for reopening schools, said she and Gov. Doug Ducey are re-evaluating that date, which was announced by Ducey in an executive order two weeks ago.

“At this time, I am not optimistic that Arizona will be ready to open for in-person instruction on Aug. 17,” Hoffman said. “I would predict that we will have announcements regarding that in the near future, but that has not yet been decided.”

Ducey spoke with superintendents from around the state Wednesday, but his office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Hoffman’s comments came during a call in which state Democrats pushed back against the White House, which is leading the charge in favor of reopening schools. They said that push comes with little guidance and “lacks empathy for our educators” at a time of spiraling COVID-19 cases.

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