As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Arizona educators are asking Gov. Doug Ducey for a transparent statewide plan to keep students and teachers safe while in the classroom.
In a letter to Ducey on Monday, Arizona Education Association President Joseph Thomas said the state’s guidelines to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in schools is not sufficient.
“They have created confusion and divisions inside our communities,” Thomas said. “Too many Arizonans feel this pandemic is a hoax. They are not taking seriously your recommendations to ‘mask up’ to stop the spread.”
The letter calls for a comprehensive statewide plan to implement things like mask mandates, additional funding for schools to shift to remote learning until January, timely contact tracing, sufficient personal protective equipment and more.
“Educators and students cannot wait any longer, they need you to take action now,” Thomas said.
The Arizona Department of Health Services regularly updates its schools dashboard with information designed to guide K-12 districts in their decisions about opening levels. Districts, however, have the final say in whether they offer virtual, hybrid or traditional learning formats.
Last month, AZDHS quietly changed its school benchmark guidelines, which created confusion in the education community.
The new guidelines urge school districts to transition from hybrid to virtual learning if all three benchmarks move to the substantial spread category for two weeks. Previously, schools were urged to shift if only one of the benchmarks was in the most severe category for two weeks.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman on Monday tweeted her support of similar measures like a statewide mask mandate and pausing winter sports.
The letter also included a petition for other educators to pledge their support of the added coronavirus measures to keep students and teachers safe.