Teachers, Board Members Say Arizona Schools Aren't Ready To Reopen

By Rocio Hernandez
Published: Thursday, July 9, 2020 - 7:45am
Updated: Thursday, July 9, 2020 - 10:55am

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The Trump administration is pressuring schools to fully reopen, but Arizona school leaders and teachers don’t want to rush things while the state continues to see a surge in COVID-19 cases. 

Gov. Doug Ducey has delayed in-person learning at K-12 schools to Aug. 17. School board members aren’t confident that COVID-19 outbreak will be tamed by then. More than three dozen signed onto a Wednesday letter calling on Ducey and other state officials to wait until October, the end of the first quarter of the academic year, to consider reopening.

“We need a safe learning environment for kids, and no district can assure that given the current circumstance as Arizona is now the number one global pandemic hot spot," said Monica Trejo, the governing board president for the Tempe Elementary School District. 

Monica Trejo
Monica Trejo
Monica Trejo is one of more than three dozen Arizona school board members calling on state officials to keep school buildings closed until October.

She said surge is also a concern for her district’s parents, including those who were initially eager to send their kids back to school. 

“Many of them have switched their response and opinion to basically say they want their kid to resume distance learning instead," Trejo said. 

A late June survey by the Arizona Education Association found that educators are also hesitant to return back to their classrooms in-person. Two-thirds of the 7,651 respondents opposed returning to a complete traditional school "brick and mortar" learning environment. 

Eight in 10 educators said schools should reopen only after it’s safe. 

“They are very concerned about the health and safety of their students, of their colleagues, of their own families that they don't see what is happening in the state as something that makes it safe to have in-person education," said Joe Thomas, the association's president. 

Joe Thomas
Katie Campbell/KJZZ
Joe Thomas at KJZZ's studio in January 2020.

More than half of teachers surveyed support distance learning for now, but when schools do reopen, they said they want to see precautions that support social distances such as small class sizes, spread out student periods and staggered school arrival and/or attendance. 

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