The governor orders resumption of personal instruction on Latest News
PHOENIX – Governor Doug Ducey last week ordered schools to resume face-to-face classes no later than March 15 after the spring break.
However, the executive order exempts middle schools and high schools in counties with high community transmission rates – at this point, most counties in the state are included.
“More than half of the schools in Arizona are open and have personal opportunities. More schools need to follow suit and pave the way for equitable educational opportunities for every student, ”Ducey said.
Parents could still choose to have their child take part in a distance learning program.
The arrangement could prove problematic in counties like Navajo and Apache, which have not yet completed vaccinating school staff. Other counties – like neighboring Gila County – have vaccinated any school staff who want a shot and have even moved on to vaccinate the general public.
The order represents a postponement of Ducey’s previous pressure to leave the decision to the local school authorities based on local conditions.
Arizona public teaching superintendent Kathy Hoffman said the deadline does not give schools enough time to carefully prepare for a return to face-to-face teaching, especially given that despite a decline in new cases, most of the state’s counties stay in the “red zone” For spreading in the community.
The order comes because a growing number of states have lifted restrictions on businesses and schools as a result of the pandemic.
However, health officials have asked the public to continue wearing masks and avoid mass gatherings and “super-spreader” situations such as overcrowded indoor restaurants. About 25% of the Arizona population have had at least one shot, and perhaps another 15% have recovered from the disease. This suggests that around 40% are at least partially protected. However, epidemiologists say the pandemic will not go away until 70 to 90% of people are protected.
President Joe Biden has announced that by the end of May the US will have enough doses of the three approved vaccines to vaccinate every adult in the country – roughly the end of the current school year.
On the other hand, the federal centers for the control of diseases have declared that schools that enforce a mask mandate avoid mass gatherings and pay attention to the spread in the community, schools – especially elementary schools – can safely reopen.
The stress of resuming one-on-one teaching is due to mounting evidence that over the past year students have lost months of learning while switching back and forth from distance learning to one-on-one. In many districts, perhaps a third of students do not show up for distance learning regularly and their scores have dropped significantly. In Arizona, public school enrollment has decreased about 6%, creating significant budget issues in many districts.
Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, said, “We have had a governor for a year now who has been telling districts, ‘Find this out,’ and staying away from it, even when districts are looking for nationwide leadership. … Now the governor comes out and says, “Here is this new mandate and we’ll all be there in a couple of weeks.” I just don’t get it, ”said an article in the Republic of Arizona.
Gila County remains at high risk of infection despite a sharp drop in infection rates over the past two weeks. In the state school reopening benchmarks, Gila County is rated as “significant” risk on two measurements and as “moderate risk” on the third. Originally, the state-recommended schools recommended distance learning plans or a hybrid mix of face-to-face and distance learning unless all three benchmarks fell into the “low” category. The state later announced that school authorities could resume classes as long as one of the three measurements falls into the “low category”. However, these guidelines remained purely advisory and left the school authorities wrestling with the decision.
In Navajo County, two of the benchmarks remain in the “high risk” category and one in the “low risk” category – the percentage of positive tests.
In Apache County, two of the measurements remain in the “significant risk” category and one in the “low risk” category – including the percentage of positive tests.
President Joe Biden had urged all schools across the country to return to teaching in person within 100 days of taking office. However, the persistent spread of the virus, the slow roll-out of vaccination programs, resistance from teacher unions, and the worrying spread of new, faster-spreading, potentially more dangerous strains of the virus led the White House to call for the virus to be swiftly opened up instead, but placed less emphasis on elementary schools fast opening of middle and high schools. Not only do adolescents catch and spread the disease more easily than younger children, they also mingle with six times as many teachers and staff as elementary school students every day.
These recommendations are roughly in line with Governor Ducey’s ordinance, which includes the exemption for college and middle school campuses in areas of high incidence in the community.
Peter Aleshire covers county government and other issues for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach out to him at [email protected]