Ducey delays reopening of Arizona schools as coronavirus cases surge
PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey announced the reopening of Arizona schools will be delayed as the state continues to grapple with an increase in coronavirus cases.
The decision to delay the start of in-school instruction until at least Aug. 17 comes after some schools districts, including Chandler, had already pushed back their start dates.
Most schools were slated to begin the academic year in early August.
“We are working closely with Superintendent Hoffman with the objective to educate our children safely and successfully,” Ducey said during a press conference. “We will continue to communicate along the way and continue programs for kids in need.”
Arizona schools were already preparing for a modified school year because of COVID-19.
Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman released guidelines June 1 on how to safely reopen schools during the pandemic.
Recommendations included older students and staff wear face masks, class sizes be decreased and barriers be installed to ensure physical distancing.
The guidelines also allow for increased remote learning options.
Mesa Public Schools, the state’s largest district, announced an initial reopening plan that includes an option for students to be educated remotely during the upcoming year.
“Having some times to see how things continue to unfold with the pandemic and public health-wise is a good thing, so we appreciate him essentially buying us some time,” Chris Kotterman with the Arizona School Board Association told KTAR News 92.3 FM Monday.
Last Wednesday, Ducey allocated $850 million in funding from the coronavirus relief bill for schools, giving clarity to how they would pay for additional resources outlined in the guidelines.
About $270 million of the funding is set to increase remote learning options, protect schools against budget shortfalls, increase broadband for students in rural communities this year.
Arizona schools were shut down in mid-March because of coronavirus and were transitioned to remote learning to finish out the academic year.
The state had reported four consecutive days of at least 3,000 cases, but the Arizona Department of Health Services said its Monday morning COVID-19 report was incomplete because a lab partner did not meet the daily data submission deadline.
Monday’s incomplete daily report showed just 625 new coronavirus cases with no new deaths, putting the state’s documented totals at 74,533 cases and 1,588 deaths.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s John Roller contributed to this report.