Peoria Unified School District, Ironwood High School

Like other schools in the Peoria Unified School District, Ironwood High School has required students and staff to wear masks. Even so, the district is “pausing” classes on Ironwood’s campus after a number of COVID-19 cases.

After numerous COVID-19 cases reported among Ironwood High School students, in-person learning at the Peoria Unified School District campus is on hold. Ironwood students will learn online until Feb. 10.

“Last week we shared that we have been closely monitoring Ironwood’s health data to make sure it is still safe to offer in-person learning. Based on the health and operational status of our campus, we have determined that we need to pause in-person learning, athletics, COOP, ARISE and extracurricular activities on (Ironwood’s) campus, until Wednesday, Feb. 10,” Superintendent Dr. Jason Reynolds said in a Jan. 29 letter to families.

“Through this temporary change to our learning model, all students will be learning virtually from Feb. 1 through 9. This is supported by Maricopa County Department of Public Health as it covers the incubation period from the last date of exposure on our campus.” 

According to PUSD’s COVID-19 tracking, 10 students and three staff members tested positive for COVID-19 Jan. 25-29.

Sunrise Mountain had 15 students test positive during the same period but is not closing classrooms.

Liberty High classrooms also remain open, despite nine students and two staff members testing positive last week.

During the previous week of Jan. 18-22, Ironwood and Liberty each had 11 students test positive; Sunrise Mountain had seven students test positive that week.

Centennial High had 14 students and three staff members with positive tests Jan. 18-22. The total COVID-19 cases at Centennial fell to seven Jan. 25-29.

Danielle Airey, a PUSD spokeswoman, noted “we look at multiple factors” when considering temporary school closure. 

“If Sunrise or Liberty hit any of the metrics, we will most definitely be reviewing all their data,” she added.

Throughout PUSD, 107 students and 27 staff members tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

The district has more than 35,000 students. Most recently, 27,215 were attending classes in classrooms, with 8,245 choosing to take virtual classes online.

According to the Maricopa County “school metrics” website, data updated Jan. 28 showed the PUSD communities with a slight drop in COVID-19 spread, falling from over 1,000 new cases per 100,000 population to 775 cases per 100,000. The percentage of positive tests also had a slight drop.

In his letter announcing the temporary closure of Ironwood classrooms, Reynolds stressed, “This decision was made using the framework and process that was shared with our governing board. … This process took us through an extensive review of our school’s metrics.

“Our team did not arrive at this decision lightly,” he added. “Last week we increased our mitigation procedures, temporarily paused programs and quarantined students when cases were reported. We now feel it is in the best interest of student and staff safety to take this added precautionary measure.” 

During the temporary classroom closures at Ironwood, “We will also have limited space available for on-site support for students who need a safe place to complete their online learning,” Reynolds noted.

And lunches will be available for drive-thru or curbside service at Ironwood.

The PUSD superintendent urged Ironwood staff and students to “remain vigilant when they are not on campus — not attending large gatherings with others, wearing masks, frequently washing hands and taking all necessary measures to prevent the spread of COVID. If these actions are not taken during this time, we could see an increase in cases upon our return rather than a decrease.”

At a January PUSD board meeting, Reynolds gave a presentation on “factors to adjust the learning model within a classroom, grade level, or school.”

He highlighted: community spread; cases identified, weekly percent positivity and outbreaks determined by the county; social, emotional and academic growth; classrooms impacted; percent absenteeism; and model of instruction and mitigation strategies.

 

—Managing Editor Tom Scanlon can be reached at tscanlon@timespublications.com.