MESA, AZ — The East Valley Institute of Technology, or EVIT, reopened Monday for in-person instruction only. This, despite the state's recommended benchmarks not being met and the most recent Maricopa County Department of Public Health data showing a substantial spread of COVID-19 in the surrounding community.
"We know that what we do is really hard to replicate online and hard to replicate online well," said EVIT Superintendent Dr. Chad Wilson.
The school's roughly 4,800 students started the year remotely last week, but as of Monday, instruction will only take place on EVIT's two East Valley campuses.
"Because our students are on our campus for two hours a day, every single day that we're closed is like two days in a traditional classroom," said Dr. Wilson. "In our opinion, every day that we wait is a disservice to our students."
Students attend class in a morning and afternoon session. Safety protocols include face coverings, physical distancing and extra sanitization.
For programs requiring students to have close contact, those hands-on lessons will be limited to 15 minutes or less.
Still, concerns remain.
One mom who wished to stay anonymous emailed ABC15 saying, "I am begging them to offer an option for parents who will not risk their child's or family's health. It is a shame that they are discriminating against families with medical constraints/disabilities.... they simply don't care."
She has since withdrawn her son from the school.
"I think people have a right to make a choice, and in some certain situations, the right choice for the family was to not participate with us and I respect that," said Dr. Wilson.
EVIT is now pointing those families to partnering high school CTE programs, while trying to reassure students and staff they are ready for when a positive case comes to light.
"Our mitigation strategy isn't to prevent any COVID from ever happening, or being identified on our campus. That would be naive," said Dr. Wilson. "We know it's going to happen. Our mitigation approach is to not have spread and to be very mindful about decisions we make once we're aware of a confirmed case."
Students are required to sign an acknowledgement form, saying they understand and agree to follow the required safety protocols. Those who do not follow the outlined measures may be subject to discipline by the EVIT Governing Board.
EVIT offers career and technical education for east Valley high school students and Phoenix-area adults. The main campus is in central Mesa with branch locations in east Mesa, Apache Junction and Fountain Hills.