Arizona School Board Association asks for more local power in reopening plan
PHOENIX — The Arizona School Board Association sent a letter Monday to Gov. Doug Ducey asking for more guidance at local levels when it comes to the state’s plan to reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic.
The board asked Ducey and public health leaders for consideration in three areas when schools return to in-person learning.
The first is to delegate reopening dates on a county-by-county basis since counties with lesser populations aren’t being hit as hard by COVID-19.
The school board would like for county health officials to be allowed to make the decision to reopen schools if Centers for Disease Control and Prevention phase-specific thresholds for phase 2 have been met.
Those thresholds include a downward trajectory of documented cases and positive test percentage for at least 28 days.
Currently, in-person learning at all Arizona schools can resume Aug. 17.
“We have asked the governor to establish a framework that would allow schools to open up in person using metrics approved by public health officials so that various areas of the state could open up schools without having to wait for every area in the state,” Chris Kotterman, director of governmental relations for ASBA, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.
The second suggestion calls for districts to have the ability to determine proper social distancing techniques that are based on available facilities.
The school board is concerned that some districts — especially those in underserved areas — won’t be able to limit the number of students on campus.
The suggestion stems from a June 24 executive order that requires districts to have an in-person learning option if they offer distance learning.
“In order to maintain any sort of safe environment with social distancing, districts and charters have to be able to control how many students are on their campuses,” Kotterman said.
The final consideration is for specific guidance on how schools should handle their response to a positive COVID-19 test within the immediate community.
Kotterman said the school board is looking for guidance from public health officials on what would be best practices.
“Unlike a private employer, we can’t tell students to stay home,” Kotterman said. “We need some guidance on what we should do to maintain good practices and not let this spread across a school system.”
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino contributed to this report.