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State moves to clarify COVID benchmarks for schools after briefing leaves school people confused

A few months into the school year, teachers and administrators vow to keep schools open
Posted at 7:21 PM, Oct 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-31 00:05:10-04

“We know that there is a storm ahead of us.” Governor Ducey’s ominous warning Thursday alerting Arizonans to be prepared for a rise in COVID-19 cases across Arizona. It came just days after a decision was announced relaxing rules governing when public schools should resort back to distance learning only.

Phoenix State Representative Kelli Butler, a member of the House Health and Human Services Committee, doesn’t understand why the state would relax the rules now.

“They claim there were people at the table making this decision. But they won’t tell us who the people were,” Butler said. “These are life and death decisions, and we need to know experts were helping make them.”

Governor Ducey says the guidelines were adjusted “at the request of public education leaders in coordination with public health officials.” Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman was not among those leader asking to change the guidelines.

In a tweet, Hoffman said the Arizona Department of Education did not request or recommend changes to the school benchmarks.

Representative Butler said, “they are making this more confusing and causing more chaos at a time when we need strong leadership and public health experts helping us decide what the best path forward is.”

The Governor’s Office dismisses any suggestion relaxing the guidelines has anything to do with presidential politics.

This week the Governor attended two large rallies with President Trump and two with Vice-President Pence.

On the campaign trail in Arizona, President Trump told his audience the pandemic is behind us. Joking “I caught it, but then you get better and you’re immune.” Thousands of supporters attended those rallies. Standing shoulder to shoulder most of them are not wearing a mask.

Late Friday afternoon, School Superintendent Kathy Hoffman and Director of Health Services, Dr. Cara Christ issued a joint statement, admitting to a “communications breakdown which left the public confused and uninformed.”

The new benchmarks allow schools to wait until COVID cases, percent positivity and COVID-like illnesses all reach a point of 10 percent or greater for two weeks with a community.

Hoffman and Dr. Christ say the benchmarks are only guidelines. They say school districts will have the final say on when a school should revert back to distance learning.