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Arizona group says in-person learning should depend on virus metrics

(AP Photo/Thomas Wells)

PHOENIX – The head of a Phoenix-based education nonprofit said Monday that reopening Arizona schools for in-person learning should rely on multiple coronavirus public health metrics.

“The ground is shifting beneath our feet … We want to feel confident that science and data are driving this and not ideology,” Mark Joraanstad, executive director of Arizona School Administrators, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show.

The group wrote to Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman on Saturday. Hoffman tweeted out the letter and noted the state’s health department said it was addressing the request.

The organization represents 1,400 school and district administrators.

Schools will start with distance learning. In-school learning could begin starting Aug. 17, per an executive order Ducey signed at the end of June.

The letter said they would like to see a selection of indicators such as the numbers Ducey uses during his COVID-19 updates included in the reopening decision.

That included hospitalization and new infection rates.

“Right now we’re facing the issue that several teachers are now informing their school districts, ‘You know what? We don’t feel it’s safe so we’re not going to come back.

They’re retiring or taking a leave of absence, he said, “aggravating an already difficult teacher shortage” in the state.

He said he also has heard from parents.

“We’ve heard from some who say, ‘Don’t experiment on our children with school safety.'”

Joraanstad said there were no expectations of 100% risk-free return to brick-and-mortar classrooms.

“That’s not possible right now in this environment,” he said.

But metrics could make people feel more comfortable.

Director of Arizona Department of Health Services Dr. Cara Christ recently said they would consider a positivity test rate under 10% to be a good sign.

The positive rate for last week’s completed PCR tests was 16%; two weeks ago it was 18%.

“I’m not a scientist,” Joraanstad said, “but we’d prefer to see three or four indicators, [and] maybe a 10-to-14-day trend of those indicators are all moving in the right direction.”

The health department reported Monday there were 1,559 new coronavirus cases and 23 more deaths.

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