Arizona won’t set school opening date, will rely on metrics, Hoffman says

Aug 4, 2020, 3:00 PM

PHOENIX – There won’t be a statewide date set for the start of on-campus instruction, Arizona’s top education official said Tuesday.

Instead, districts will be empowered to decide when students can return based on coronavirus conditions and health department guidelines, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show.

“There’s not going be a date where all Arizona schools open, but instead we’re recognizing the need to use locally available public health data at the county level,” she said.

“They could even go down to the ZIP code level or the school district level. So look at that, look to see, ‘Is there a local outbreak that would prevent a school from being open, or is there high risk of community spread?’”

Hoffman said she’s been in close communication with the governor’s office and there was an agreement that a new date would not be set.

Previously, Gov. Doug Ducey ordered in-person schooling to be delayed until at least Aug. 17.

As part of the state’s evolving schools plan, the Arizona Department of Health Services is in the process of creating COVID-19 benchmarks to guide districts in their reopening decisions and must release them by Friday.

Hoffman said Tuesday she has seen preliminary versions but not the final metrics.

On Monday, Hoffman issued a statement that said it was “unlikely” any Arizona district or public charter schools would be able to start in-person instruction by that aspirational date, and she reiterated it Tuesday.

“What I am … trying to make clear for our families across the state, to help set their expectations, is that, across the board, when we’re looking at the metrics, looking at the data of COVID-19 and … seeing that we have very high community spread of the virus across the state, both in urban and rural areas, that our schools are not ready for in-person instruction.”

She specified that she was referring to traditional schooling with 25-30 students in a classroom or hybrid models that blend online and in-person instruction.

“What we are still allowing and encouraging is to have targeted support services on schools, on school campuses for students in need,” she said.

It’s not clear exactly when or how the health department guidelines will be released, although Director Dr. Cara Christ told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News that they’d be ready this week.

Ducey has been summoned to Washington by President Donald Trump and isn’t expected to take part in an Arizona coronavirus briefing this week.

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Arizona won’t set school opening date, will rely on metrics, Hoffman says