Blue backpack full of school supplies against a pink background. Back to school concept. Copy space.

Despite increasing spread of COVID-19 in their communities, Peoria Unified and Deer Valley Unified school districts are allowing students to learn on campus. Many other districts have closed classrooms to students, with online learning only.

Since Dec. 1, the number of deaths due to COVID-19  in Arizona has nearly doubled, going from 6,639 to 12,001 — and one-third of the total deaths over the last year have come in the first three weeks of January. That also holds true for Maricopa County: One-third of the county’s 6,819 deaths due to COVID-19 have come in January.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 spread accelerates. According to the Maricopa County Health Department, “All school districts and ZIP codes in Maricopa County are experiencing substantial spread of COVID-19 according to three statewide benchmarks ...  For the most recent week of full data (1/3), Maricopa County had 885 cases per 100,000 people. Anything over 100 cases per 100,000 is considered substantial spread.”

Maricopa County’s “school metrics” website, updated Jan. 21, shows the COVID-19 surge continuing, with most West Valley ZIP codes showing increases — near and in some cases over 1,000 cases per 100,000 in the last week.

While Peoria Unified and Deer Valley school districts are giving students the option of online or in-classroom learning, Glendale Elementary School District is keeping its classrooms closed.

On Thursday, Jan. 21, after Maricopa County updated its school metrics site, 

GESD Superintendent Cindy Segotta-Jones posted a message notifying families district classrooms would remain closed.

“The health metrics released today still show an extremely high number of cases, percent positivity and COVID-like Illness. The overall risk level is substantial,” she noted.

The data showed the communities surrounding GESD schools had more than 900 new cases per 100,000 population over the last week.

Though high, that was lower than the 923 cases per 100,000 over the last week in the Deer Valley Unified District 1,014 cases per 100,000 in the last seven days in PUSD communities. 

“Please be advised that all schools in the GESD will remain in an online learning environment based on the current benchmarks,” Segotta-Jones noted. 

“With COVID-19 still prominent in our area, please continue to follow current guidance to protect yourself and those around you. As always, we are monitoring all data to determine when it is safe to consider shifting our recommended learning model,” she added.

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Glendale Union High School District also is keeping classrooms closed with online learning only. 

In a Jan. 22 letter to families, GUHSD stated, “Although the cases per 100,000 people continues to increase, the percent positivity and COVID-like illness numbers have slightly declined.”