In a video conference Aug. 10, state physicians and education voices called on Gov. Doug Ducey to provide stronger state leadership; support to school districts; and stricter guidelines to keep all students, educators, staff and families safe during the reopening process.
Ducey, along with the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Arizona Department of Education, recently announced a “Roadmap for Reopening Schools.”
In-person learning was not allowed until Aug. 17. After that, school districts were permitted to make their own decisions, based on data provided by the state in different categories.
“With no evidence to back up this roadmap metric, Gov. Ducey is telling Arizona that students can return to class, when conditions are clearly not safe to do so,” said Dr. Dionne Mills, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Gilbert.
The panel of medical professionals and school districts claim the outline is too vague and will not be sufficient enough to combat the spread of the virus.
“From a medical perspective, the most alarming thing about Gov. Ducey’s plan for reopening is that its recommendations simply aren’t quite that backed by science or evidence,” said Mills. “And that is scary.”
“We know that COVID-19 is just as disproportionately hurting working families in Arizona—especially in the Black, Latino and Native American communities, the impact is great,” said Devin Del Palacio, a Tolleson Union High School District board member.
“Ignoring some of the educational needs of the underserved and at-risk students will only further set back our entire generation of children.”
In response to the governor’s reopening plans, state professionals have produced their own set of “data driven and scientific based” guidelines for school districts to use when reopening.
The list, compiled by educators and medical experts, includes benchmarks like adequate testing with a positivity rate of less than 5%, faster testing results and widespread contact tracing.
Some said teachers are concerned for their safety.
“They are writing wills and are putting together contingency plans for their own children, should they be hospitalized or worse,” said Beth Lewis, co-founder of Save Our Schools Arizona.
“As educators and parents we are extremely concerned that the people we elect to lead us have given up and have left local communities to fend for ourselves,” Lewis said.
Ducey’s roadmap asks educational staff and students to act as emotional and behavior counsels as well as recognize the symptoms of COVID-19.
One said the plan puts added responsibility and stress on school staff and students.
“Piling on more roles and responsibility for our staff without additional resources will only add to the burden and ultimately hurt our most disadvantaged students,” said Del Palacio
“Our resources are already shorthanded,” Del Palacio said. “And we are now expected to do more, with less.”