Less than a month after the Peoria Unified School District Governing Board voted to keep classrooms open “regardless of metrics,” the district temporarily closed 13 schools after teachers staged a “sick out.”
The closures were only Monday, Jan. 11.
“We’re back!” declared a PUSD Facebook post Tuesday, Jan. 12.
With the spread of COVID-19 accelerating, many districts around the West Valley closed classrooms—or kept them closed—with online teaching only after winter break.
“Benchmark” metrics on the spread of COVID-19 in communities updated Jan. 7 showed slight improvements in Glendale and Peoria, though ZIP codes in both cities remain “in the red” with substantial spread of coronavirus.
Peoria Unified was one of the few districts to keep classrooms open after the winter break. On Friday, Jan. 8, the Peoria Education Association announced a one-day “sick out.”
According to a post on the association’s Facebook page, “PEA supports educators and staff members in the Peoria Unified School District as they choose to call out sick on Monday, Jan. 11, as a result of the school board decision to disregard county COVID-19 metrics. … Over 900 emails were sent to the school board for a request to call a special session to discuss reinstating the metrics as we have moved further in the red. Disappointingly, at this time, the School Board has given no indication they are likely to adopt or reinstate any metrics.”
Later, a post on the district website announced 13 of the district’s 42 schools would be closed Monday, Jan. 11.
“Peoria Unified has closely monitored our staff absence data, which is one of the factors we use to determine if we can safely hold school. 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 at the following schools:
• Alta Loma.
• Country Meadows.
• Santa Fe.
• Raymond S. Kellis.
• Sunrise Mountain.
PUSD Superintendent Dr. Jason Reynolds posted an update on the district website Monday, Jan. 11.
“I know that today’s closures may have left you or your child feeling frustrated and confused,” Reynolds said. “… I recognize that learning in a pandemic has not been ideal, but I am proud of our community and how they have persevered through adversity.
“Our district has made every effort to accommodate choice for our families through a hybrid model of both in-person and virtual learning. Never in our 132-year history have we been tested to continue to deliver rigorous and engaging academic and extracurricular experiences for our students in the face of so many obstacles. Through it all, I remain committed to the safety of each and every one of our students and staff members,” he added.
Students at Deer Valley Unified, Glendale Elementary and Glendale Union High school districts returned from winter break online with no classrooms open.
At GESD, according to a post by Superintendent Cindy Segotta-Jones, “the earliest projected date for a return to school in the hybrid model is Monday, Feb. 1.”
For public schools in the West Valley, the Maricopa County school metrics show an overall risk level of “substantial” and “recommended Learning Scenario is: Virtual w/ onsite support.”
But, according to new guidance updated Dec. 31, “Maricopa County Department of Public and Arizona Department of Health Services have agreed to support those jurisdictions who are able to maintain a safe learning environment with regular school-by-school monitoring, regardless of levels of community COVID-19 transmission.
“Further, with the recent publications emphasizing the benefits of in-person learning, particularly for elementary schools, and the emerging data indicating that in-person school attendance is not a risk factor for youth testing positive for COVID-19, MCDPH recommends preferentially keeping elementary and middle schools open for in-person learning.”