QUEEN CREEK, AZ — On August 12 the Queen Creek Unified School District governing board decided to allow in-person instruction to commence on August 17.
"I think we were the little guinea pigs and I was OK with being a guinea pig. I was OK with it," says Misty McFadden, a parent of two kids attending Jack Barnes Elementary.
After months of teachers resigning and protests at the state capitol, McFadden said the district board listened to parents.
"I'm glad we had a choice. It wasn't about 'make everybody go back to school' or 'make everybody stay at home' it was, 'which do you prefer?'" said McFadden referencing their pleas to the district about allowing for in-person learning to take effect.
"We are so excited we actually cried tears of joy that the children get to go back to school," said McFadden on August 12, moments after the governing board made the decision to give parents like her, what they'd been asking for all along.
"COVID isn't going away any time soon so we have to learn to adapt and I would say that's what Queen Creek has done," said Alissa Pope, also a parent at Jack Barnes Elementary.
Pope says that, to date, she hasn't received any communication from the school about a positive COVID-19 case and she adds, she'd take it just as if the school communicated about a case of lice or another illness such as the flu or strep throat.
"I'm confident that the precautions in place will protect my children. Children are resilient. There will be cases. Will that make me wanna pull my kids from the school? No," adds Pope.
Pope shared a picture of Jack Barnes principal Dawn Kennaugh disinfecting high-traffic areas. In the photo, you can also observe the one-way traffic arrows on the floor of the school.
Kennaugh says, "Our doors are open, not just at Jack Barnes but across our campus, across our district, they have remained open. Honestly not only again from what we are doing here on campus but about the parents making sure that they are encouraging their children to make sure to wash their hands and keep your mask on."
According to a district spokesperson, no schools in the Queen Creek Unified School District have had to shut down due to COVID but on August 31, a letter went out to parents at Eastmark High School about a positive COVID-19 case at the school.
Arizona Department of Health and Maricopa County Health Department data shows that Queen Creek Unified had a 4.8% positivity rate and had 80.4 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people.
The most recent data shows the positivity rate at 2.9% with 28.39 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. It is important to mention that COVID-19 testing has diminished throughout the state, including Queen Creek.
Alissa Pope says that the numbers that really matter to her aren't necessarily related to COVID-19.
"We did get their benchmark testing and overall the kids are behind which further tells me that they need to be in person," adds Pope.
We asked a district spokesperson for the number of schools that have sent out information to parents about COVID-19 cases on their campuses across all schools. The spokesperson responded with:
"We work with the Maricopa County Department of Health for guidance on reporting positive cases and follow our protocols. All appropriate individuals receive the appropriate notification when necessary."