SAN TAN VALLEY, AZ — The COVID-19 pandemic has led to tough decisions having to be made at school districts all over the state.
First, the decision to reopen and what that would look like, now, the decision of when to close and how many positive cases on campus are too many?
At one San Tan Valley school, the decision to remain open is concerning some community members after seven cases have been reported on their campus.
ABC15 has obtained internal emails from an administrator to teachers, informing them that he and his wife, who also works at the school, have tested positive for COVID-19.
In the letter, the administrator from San Tan Heights K-8 states he was absent from school last Thursday and Friday due to a COVID-19 symptom. He goes on to say both him and his wife went to get tested.
"On Saturday, we were informed that we both tested positive and are now quarantined until November 3rd. I have spoken with the Pinal County Public Health epidemiologist, and she believes we posed a low risk to staff and students. However, if you are experiencing any symptoms, I strongly encourage you to get tested."
ABC15 has spoken to several concerned staff and community members who are concerned about how the district has handled the situation. One staff member, who requested anonymity, said they were concerned because the administrator visited classrooms, interacted with many students, and had meetings with teachers all week long. They also said the administrator displayed symptoms earlier in the week.
"Lots of coughing, he said it was allergies at first," said the concerned staff member.
Those concerned said they worried the district chose not to close the schools down for deep cleaning and to assess if the virus had spread to others in their school community.
According to a COVID-19 dashboard posted on the Florence Unified District's website, San Tan Heights K-8 has seven COVID-19 cases on campus. That is the highest number recorded in the district.
Even higher than the two schools, the district decided to close two weeks ago due to positive cases on campus. Concerned community members question why the county health department and school district closed down those schools, while this one with the highest number of cases remains open today.
"I just don't think they have our best interest in mind. I feel like they just want to stay open and just pretend like nothing is happening. I just feel like that is something we should not be doing right now. It is people's safety and lives right now," said the concerned community resident.
ABC15 reached out to the Pinal County Health Department to determine how they were deciding which schools to close versus which ones remained open after COVID. In a statement, public health director Dr. Tascha Spears states:
"Some schools have made the decision on their own to close. Others have requested the assistance of public health in ordering the closures. Decisions are made collaboratively with school leadership based on multiple factors, such as positive cases, number of potential exposures as well as whether mitigation protocols such as masks, social distancing, and sanitizing were being followed."
ABC15 also reached out to the Florence Unified School District to determine what steps they are taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus.
They issued the following statement Monday evening:
"Due to privacy laws I cannot provide the name(s) of those who may have tested positive for COVID-19. All active cases can be found on our COVID-19 Dashboard on our District website.
Also, FUSD continues to be vigilant in implementing the mitigation measures and safety protocols to help decrease the spread of COVID-19 on all our campuses. District Administration is in frequent communication with the Pinal County Health Department to identify those who were in close contact and have contacted those who need to quarantine directly.
At this time all FUSD schools remain open for in person instruction. Thank you."