Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said Monday she does not believe Arizona school districts will be able to return to in-person learning on Aug. 17 due to the spread of coronavirus in the state.
“I want to make clear that Arizona is currently not in a place to resume traditional in-person instruction or hybrid learning models,” Hoffman said in a statement.
“Every indicator shows that there is high community spread across the state … It is unlikely that any school community will be able to reopen safely for traditional in-person or hybrid instruction by Aug. 17. Our state is simply not ready to have all our students and educators congregate in school facilities.”
Gov. Doug Ducey on June 29 signed an executive order delaying the beginning of in-school instruction until at least Aug. 17 — a date both he and Hoffman have referred to as aspirational.
Monday marked the online-only beginning of the fall semester for many Arizona schools with several more set to resume virtual learning this week.
The Arizona Department of Health Services is expected by Friday to release public health benchmarks and guidelines through which school districts may resume in-person education.
There’s no clear indication as to how or when these new benchmarks will be released.
This week will be the first since the start of the health crisis Ducey has not held a coronavirus-related press conference.
Ducey announced Arizona: Open For Learning via executive order July 23, which aims to provide flexibility for schools during the 2020-21 academic year, including allowing local school leaders the authority to determine when teacher-led classroom instruction will resume.
“If we want to return to in-person instruction, every Arizonan must make it their mission to slow the spread of this virus,” Hoffman said.
Earlier on Monday, AZDHS reported 1,030 new coronavirus cases and 14 additional deaths, increasing state totals to 179,497 COVID-19 infections and 3,779 fatalities.