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Gov. Ducey on Arizona classrooms opening: ‘Supportive of the districts’

(Twitter Photo/@dougducey)

PHOENIX – Gov. Doug Ducey isn’t taking issue with Arizona districts opening classrooms in counties that haven’t met the state’s COVID-19 benchmarks.

“We’re supportive of the districts,” he said during a press conference Thursday, his first time facing the local media since the Arizona Department of Health Services released the benchmarks last week.

Ducey directed the department to create the benchmarks as guidance for districts, which have the final say in the matter, not mandates.

When asked what he thought about educators reluctant to work on campus where the benchmarks haven’t been met, Ducey said, “There’s a lot of teachers that can’t wait to get to the front of the classroom.”

He also noted that schools are still offering online options to families not comfortable sending their kids back to campuses.

Ducey’s response came a day after Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman expressed dismay about schools opening before benchmarks related to the spread of the coronavirus have been met.

“Not following them is a disservice to the educators who continue providing instruction via distance learning & families who are supporting distance learning,” Hoffman said in a series of tweets.

“We are all making sacrifices for the health and safety of our school communities. If we work together, meeting the metrics for returning to in-person instruction is achievable. I urge every Arizonan to do their part in slowing the spread of #COVID19.”

K-12 district and charter schools across the state started the fall semester with online-only classes, as mandated by Ducey’s June 29 order. The order said classrooms couldn’t open before Aug. 17.

Another order issued July 23 required the Arizona Department of Health Services to create metrics to guide districts on when they could safely resume traditional in-person schooling for the first time since the spring semester was cut short in mid-March.

The guidance plan was released last week, along with an online data dashboard showing that no counties met the three recommended benchmarks.

Despite that, administrators in two southeast Valley public districts — Queen Creek Unified and J.O. Combs Unified – and the 12-campus American Leadership Academy charter school system decided earlier this week to begin offering on-campus learning Monday.

At the time those decisions were announced, Maricopa County – home to Queen Creek Unified and most of the American Leadership Academy schools – and Pinal County – home to J.O. Combs Unified had each reached just one of the benchmarks, although a second was in reach.

The first weekly dashboard update was released Thursday morning. There still aren’t any Arizona counties meeting all three benchmarks, but most, including Maricopa and Pinal, have hit now two of them.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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