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Kathy Hoffman says Arizona school benchmarks can be model for others

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX – Benchmarks designed to guide the safe reopening of Arizona classrooms could be a beacon for more American educators, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said Friday.

“I am very pleased with these metrics,” Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show, describing them as comprehensive and rigorous. “I think this actually can be a model for other states.”

The state health department on Thursday released recommendations based on coronavirus metrics for districts to use in deciding when to resume on-campus classes.

Those county-by-county assessments want a positive virus rate of 7% or less for two consecutive weeks; a two-week decline in number of cases and less than 10% of hospital visits because of COVID-like illness.

“They’re quite detailed,” Hoffman said, “giving clear metrics on when is it safe for hybrid types of learning models versus when is it safe for full in-person with all the kids back in the classroom.

“I do believe this is going to help our education community make data-informed decisions and it’s also going to provide our families and parents [with] a very clear sense of where are we at and when will it be safe for kids to be back in the classroom.”

Hoffman said district governing and charter boards decide when to reopen, but that Gov. Doug Ducey would be the one to determine if another shutdown was required, as he did in March.

“None of our counties are currently in a place where we should have … kids back in the classroom,” Hoffman said.

Districts can fall short of meeting the criteria but fully open anyway, just as they can meet the metrics and still decide not to open their schools.

“There is that built-in flexibility,” Hoffman said, pointing to districts that have announced they would stick with distance learning for the time being.

Hoffman also said there was a difference between preschools and day care facilities that are open and state universities that plan to open up campuses before the end of the month.

“It’s not quite an apples to apples comparison,” she said. “When we think about day care, child care places, community places, they have significantly less children and staff in each building so that the density of people in one place together is significantly less.

“You think about high school that has thousands of students plus the staff in one building. You think about passing in the hallway … day care and child care typically don’t have the same level of that type of interaction.”

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