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SUSD: Arcadia, Chaparral, and Desert Mountain high schools to return to remote learning

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Posted at 6:32 PM, Nov 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-30 20:53:40-05

SCOTTSDALE, AZ — Scottsdale Unified School District said Monday that three of its largest high schools would move to remote learning for the remainder of the semester.

Arcadia High School, Chaparral High School, and Desert Mountain High School would return to virtual or online learning on Tuesday and would remain in place for the final weeks of the semester, which ends on Dec. 18.

The special education classes at those high schools would resume in-person learning on Tuesday, the district said.

Cocopah Middle School and Mountainside Middle School would also resume in-person learning on Tuesday.

All five schools were closed on Monday, Nov. 30, because there wasn't enough staff to hold classes, partly due to concerns about the rising COVID-19 cases and photos of recent sporting events showing little to no mask-wearing or social distancing.

"In reviewing our current situation, MCDPH supports having the following schools return to online learning for the balance of the semester, as a result of staffing shortages and general noncompliance with public health mitigation strategies: Arcadia High School, Chaparral High School, and Desert Mountain High School," the district said in a letter sent to parents on Monday. "Accordingly, we will begin transitioning to online learning, effective Tuesday, December 1, 2020, for these three high schools. The following Special Education programs located at Arcadia, Chaparral and Desert Mountain will remain open to in-person learning and continue with a full-day schedule: ALC, SCA, LSC, SUCCESS, SHINE, and SCORE. Cocopah and Mountainside Middle schools will re-open for in-person learning tomorrow."

The latest update to the Maricopa County Public Health Department's school dashboard shows the district in the "substantial" spread category with 241 cases per 100,000 people and a 9.98% positivity rate.

The district's COVID-19 case dashboard shows a total of 36 confirmed active cases throughout the district, as of Nov. 24.

The district has been pleading with community members to follow mitigation measures and to limit gatherings so schools can remain open, attributing much of the spread to activities happening off-campus.

Last month, Chaparral High School's COVID-19 outbreak led the district to instruct more than 200 families to quarantine.

During the governing board's most recent meeting on November 23, Superintendent Dr. Scott Menzel said the ability to properly staff classrooms is getting more difficult, particularly within the high schools.

"Our biggest challenge so far this year has been Chaparral," Dr. Menzel said. "We've had counselors, social workers, assistant principals, and even the principal filling in classrooms to cover."

Dr. Menzel discussed what is known as the "sub fill rate," which is an indicator of how many requests for substitutes are actually filled by professional substitutes. The district's current rate is about 71 percent. Last year, it was closer to 90 percent.

"I have heard stories where teachers may be in adjoining rooms, and they're covering two classrooms, and that becomes worrisome for me because we need to have a sub in each classroom," said Dr. Menzel. "That becomes an indicator that we're stretched beyond capacity."

The district's governing board is set to meet next on Tuesday, December 1, at 5:00 p.m.

Read the full statement from the district to parents HERE.