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Scottsdale Unified School District to close five schools Monday due to lack of staffing

As state continues to battle COVID-19, NJ governor announces schools, colleges will remain closed
Posted at 8:54 PM, Nov 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-30 19:57:58-05

SCOTTSDALE, AZ — The Scottsdale Unified School District announced Sunday that Arcadia High School, Chaparral High School, Desert Mountain High School, Cocopah Middle School and Mountainside Middle School will close on Monday, November 30, due to a lack of staffing.

"Unfortunately, we have learned over the weekend that we do not have an adequate number of teachers or substitutes to cover all teacher absences tomorrow," read a letter that went out to district families Sunday night.

The latest update to the Maricopa County Public Health Department's schools 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 November 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."

Going into the Thanksgiving holiday, the board discussed the possibility of returning certain school sites to remote learning if there was not enough staff to adequately cover classrooms.

"I do worry that after the break, we're going to find that in a couple of our buildings, we might be in a position where we might have to shut down a couple buildings and go back to virtual because of that," said Dr. Menzel.

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

Read the full letter sent to parents below: