QUEEN CREEK, AZ — While some argue it's too soon, just as many have asked to head back to school this month. In Queen Creek, the issue is more divisive than ever.
Parents and students stood outside Queen Creek Unified School District offices Tuesday with signs advocating for in-person learning.
“I hate being in online school, it just doesn’t work," said incoming high school freshman Rustin Brandon.
"We should get students back in school as soon as possible," added Sundee Neff.
Meanwhile, a group of educators argued the opposite. "It's the beginning of a crisis," said Jacob Frantz, President of the Queen Creek Education Association, telling ABC15 several teachers have already chosen to resign. "They aren't being listened to and their concerns aren't being taken into account."
Educators have asked Queen Creek School board members to consider continuing education online until they can meet public health benchmarks.
Tuesday, board members voted 4-1 to resume in-person learning on August 17. “If we open and we have an outbreak, we will end up shutting down pretty quick,” said Frantz.
Just last week, district officials confirmed several positive cases among employees.
"We’ve been required to be in-person in our classrooms even though we’re doing things virtually," said Brad Charles, who has taught biology in Queen Creek for four years.
Charles says he isn't willing to run the risk of getting COVID-19. "I resigned as of yesterday," he said. "COVID-19 is not going away, it’s going to be around for a long time and I am high risk for it, so I need it to be in a situation where I didn’t have to be around 30 kids."
Many parents who showed up to the meeting could be heard cheering. Some worry they will have to consider alternatives to get their children back in a classroom. "If they decide to stay online, honestly we will look at other options," said Brice Neff.
"I feel like if a person doesn't feel safe sending their child back or going back themselves they should have the right to choose that," added Neff.
Queen Creek Unified Officials released a statement to parents just moments after making the decision to return to in-person learning. "There are no easy answers or perfect plans to reopen schools; however, one thing is for certain, we are stronger together," it said in part.
"Based on parent survey data and input from the community, the majority of our parents want some form of in-person instruction and they want a choice. This decision recognizes your needs. Families can choose between full-time, on-site instruction or they can choose to have their student continue learning through our long-term online learning solution (QCVA)."
The district also released information on mitigation strategies they plan to implement in schools moving forward, including when to wear masks and asking student to abide by best hygiene practices.