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Chandler Unified School District updates metrics to guide school closures

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Posted at 1:44 PM, Nov 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-24 21:52:59-05

CHANDLER, AZ — Nine-year-old Tatum Ditzler is still recovering after testing positive for COVID-19 on November 15.

"I have been very tired," she said. "A lot of fevers, headaches, stomach aches."

Ditzler's mom, Candace Ditzler, is now even more hesitant to send her daughter back to the Jacobson Elementary campus. She says she is frustrated by the lack of live, virtual instruction, and concerned with how the district is deciding to keep schools open.

"It is inconsistent," she said. "That's what they've prided themselves on this whole time, is being consistent."

On November 18 board members discussed a more localized approach. They will still look at state and county data, but will use the percentage of confirmed, active cases within a campus population to gauge whether or not a school should transition to virtual learning for five days.

The percentages are:

-2.0% for Elementary Schools
-1.5% for Junior High Schools
-1.0% for High Schools

The most recent update on the district's COVID-19 dashboard shows all campuses well below those benchmarks.

Superintendent Dr. Camille Casteel acknowledged during the meeting, the decision would get mixed reaction.

"We know that there will be a number of you upset, maybe angry, continued frustration, and some of you will be relieved and happy and please," she said. "I'm hoping that you will all feel informed and realize that we are not taking the pandemic lightly."

"I think it really does get down to the needs of the individual area and because things change," said Jennifer Alvey, a mom of five.

Her family has been in CUSD for nearly 19 years and agrees with the decision to stay open, citing concerns over learning loss and the impact on kids' social-emotional wellness when schools close.

"We want to look at the risks from the illness of course, but there's also so many equally important other factors that I feel have just kind of been shoved to the side and said well, we're not going to worry about that," Alvey said.

CUSD is not the only district taking this approach. Gilbert Public Schools adopted nearly identical benchmarks for deciding when to transition schools to hybrid learning.