PHOENIX — COVID-19 is still having a direct impact on Arizona schools, and one education official is worried the continued stress of teaching during a pandemic will push some teachers to leave their jobs.
Just this week, the Marana Unified School District announced eight classrooms are temporarily closing due to an outbreak of COVID-19. An outbreak is considered to be two or more active cases. According to MUSD, the classroom closures were at Estes Elementary. Two of the classes were closed due to an outbreak, and the six others were shut down due to widespread exposure.
"[The] Pima County Health Department also recommends shutting down classes when 10% or more of the class are positive cases," said a spokesperson for MUSD. "The families of classrooms closed due to outbreak, as well as the entire school, received notifications that included details on the closure along with general health guidance."
MUSD does not require mask wearing at schools, but instead strongly recommends that every student and staff members wear a mask.
Across Maricopa County, COVID-19 transmission is two times higher than the minimum limit to be labeled high community transmission. In Maricopa County schools, there are currently 249 active outbreaks with 233 in elementary schools.
"It's simple, universal masking indoors in the classroom works wonders," said Will Humble, Director of the Arizona Public Health Association (AZPHA.) "By in large younger people have an easier time with this disease but it’s very, very important to get them vaccinated because once they get vaccinated, they don’t become part of the transmission."
"It has been a long time since educators have had the stability of a classroom they’re used to," said Joe Thomas, President of the Arizona Education Association. "That disrupted learning is difficult to manage, and [COVID-19] is taking a toll. It’s taking an incredible toll and the stress level is pushing people out."
According to a study by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association released on October 13, "about 25.9% of teacher vacancies across the state this year remain unfilled while 55.4% of the vacancies are filled by teachers who do not meet the state’s standard certification requirements."
"It’s going to make it longer and more difficult than it could be and that’s going to make an impact of pushing educators out of the classroom," said Thomas.
The Arizona Department of Education released this statement in regards to recent outbreaks and quarantines at Arizona districts:
“The pandemic is not over - and Arizona’s students continue to be at the center of this public health crisis. With vaccines now available for school-age children and adults, all eligible adults and parents should weigh the risks of COVID-19 against the proven benefits of its vaccine. We urge all Arizonans to do their part to provide stability for our students: wear a mask in public settings. And we urge unvaccinated Arizonans to consider getting a COVID-19 vaccine so that our school facilities can remain open and students can learn safely in their classrooms.
While these conversations are happening, COVID-19 cases are again rising in Arizona and schools must take the appropriate steps to keep unvaccinated students and staff safe. These decisions have been made with guidance and support from local public health departments – and they are not made lightly."
According to a study by the Arizona Public Health Association, COVID-19 has been the number one cause of death for Arizonans since the beginning of the pandemic, and Arizona is the only state where COVID-19 is the main cause of death. Over the past week, Arizona has averaged more than 3,500 COVID-19 cases per day and 35 COVID-19 related deaths per day. Currently, 60.1 percent of Arizonans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.