Peoria Schools Close As Teachers Protest In-Person Learning

By Austin Fast
Published: Sunday, January 10, 2021 - 4:58pm
Updated: Monday, January 11, 2021 - 7:44am

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Peoria Unified School District
Sky Schaudt/KJZZ
Peoria Unified School District's administration office.

As of Sunday morning, so many teachers from Peoria School District called in sick to protest in-person learning that a dozen schools won’t have enough staff for classes on Monday.

The Peoria Education Association is encouraging teachers to participate in this "sick-out." The group is upset the district is ignoring state health department recommendations for virtual learning in light of COVID-19’s current spread throughout Maricopa County.

"We have explored all possible options to keep school open but at this time, we do not have enough staff to support a safe environment for students this Monday, Jan. 11," read an announcement posted on the Peoria district website Friday.

As of Sunday, affected elementary schools include: Alta Loma, Copperwood, Country Meadows, Heritage, Pioneer and Santa Fe. Affected high schools include: Cactus, Centennial, Ironwood, Liberty and Sunrise Mountain. Peoria High School will also be closed, but Peoria Flex Academy and the MET Professional Academy are to remain open.

The closure will impact both in-person and virtual instruction at the listed sites.

PEA supports educators and staff members in the Peoria Unified School District as they choose to call out sick on...

Posted by Peoria Education Association on Friday, January 8, 2021

Ralph Quintana is president of Arizona’s chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, and his son attends school in Peoria's district. He believes masks and social distancing can effectively mitigate most dangers of COVID-19 transmission in educational settings. Quintana said he'd also support a hybrid system with some students in class and some virtual rather than forcing school closures altogether.

"I do understand, though, individuals that are high-risk, and they're worried though, and I would make an exception for those individuals," Quintana said. 

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman called on Gov. Doug Ducey to force all learning online earlier this month, citing Arizona Department of Health Services data currently recommending virtual learning for all counties, based on current rates of the virus' spread. Ducey declined, stating education is a local issue.

Elementary and high school teachers are part of the Phase 1B rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations, starting Monday. However Peoria School District decides to approach learning through the pandemic, Quintana is hopeful these educators will get vaccinated immediately.

“As soon as possible, we need to get vaccinated and we need to get back in the classroom teaching our kids because, especially within our poor communities and our rural communities, we’re not meeting the needs of our kids," Quintana said. "And they’re getting even further behind than they already were.”

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