PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Health Services said Thursday that Maricopa and Pima counties, as well as eight others, have now met the state's recommended benchmarks, allowing them to begin "hybrid" learning -- a mix of in-school and virtual learning.
On Thursday morning, officials announced that six counties -- Maricopa, Pima, Pinal, Navajo, Cochise and Coconino -- were added to the list of those that have met recommended benchmarks.
Apache, Greenlee, La Paz, and Yavapai counties had all previously met the benchmarks to begin hybrid learning, according to ADHS' online dashboard. However, on Thursday, ADHS announced that Greenlee and La Paz counties met the benchmarks to resume full in-person learning.
Five other counties in the state -- Mohave, Yuma, Santa Cruz, Graham and Gila -- have not yet met the three recommended benchmarks to resume any type of in-person learning.
The announcement comes as several public K-12 districts in Maricopa County prepare for a second wave of "back to school" on Sept. 8.
- Gilbert Public Schools is scheduled to begin its hybrid model after Labor Day
- Higley and Cave Creek school districts will begin full in-person learning
- Peoria Unified School District is moving to Stage Two of its reopening plan, welcoming back developmental preschool, small group learning with critical CTE labs, in-season athletics, at-risk students in Peoria Flex Academy and continuing support for special education students in self-contained programs.
- Chandler Unified approved a staggered start for elementary students (pre-school through second grade will return in-person on Sept. 14, third through sixth grade will return Sept. 21, all students return Oct. 13).
A handful of other districts that were aiming for in-person starts after Labor Day have now decided against that. Glendale Union High School District, Glendale Elementary School District, Washington Elementary District, Osborn School District and Paradise Valley Unified all say they will likely stay remote beyond Labor Day.
To meet the benchmarks, ADHS looks at three data points: number of cases, percent of positivity, and COVID-like illnesses. Counties have to meet all three benchmarks for two weeks before being able to return to the classroom.
As of Wednesday, Maricopa and Pima counties had met two of the three benchmarks, according to ADHS' website. Both had not yet met the 7% percent of positivity benchmarks for the last two weeks as of Wednesday.
According to the "Safely Returning to In-Person Instruction" guide by ADHS, moving to the hybrid model would be implemented with multiple safety measures while there is "minimal to moderate community spread" of the coronavirus. Traditional learning should be utilized with zero to minimal community spread, with less restrictive safety measures.