PEORIA, AZ — The Peoria Unified School District discussed ways to improve COVID-19 mitigation efforts during a special meeting on Wednesday. The hope is for students and teachers to feel safer.
The special meeting lasted nearly three hours. This comes days after hundreds of staff members called out sick Monday in protest of in-person learning.
"What can we do? That is what we continue to focus on," says Superintendent Jason Reynolds, Peoria Unified School District.
The governing board addressed several issues, including reducing class size. Currently, there are many classes with more than 35 students.
"Whether it's class size, whether it's the air purifier, whether it's the steps that we're taking with our custodial partnerships... anything that we can continue to do that makes the learning experience not only actually better but feel better," says Reynolds.
Students and teachers had to choose whether they wanted virtual or in-person learning a few months back.
The president of the Peoria Education Association, Trina Berg, says many agreed to work under the assumption the district would keep its word to follow the county metrics.
"They threw the metrics out in December. Now we're all in the red, or the hotspot of the world, and we have very large class sizes and there's a waiting list for people that are trying to go back to virtual," says Trina Berg, president, Peoria Education Association.
The superintendent says they are, and will continue, looking at county metrics plus additional ones to make decisions.
They are also analyzing the district dashboard, which on Wednesday showed 34 current COVID-19 cases including an outbreak at Peoria High School.
That is one reason why some want to go back to virtual. Dozens of students are currently on a wait list.
"We encourage our schools every day to make sure that they are doing whatever they can to accommodate those families and those students who are wanting to go back to virtual," says Reynolds.
The district says it is also disinfecting more often, using Clorox machines and air purifiers on top of that.
Some parents feel that should be enough.
"With what was brought up tonight, with everything that is being done, with 360 disinfectant machines, our kids wearing masks, socially distancing, quarantining at home... I think that is as safe as we are going to get at this point," says Heather Rooks, parent.
No word yet on whether teachers plan to hold another sickout.