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With COVID benchmarks met, more Valley schools reopening classrooms

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX – More school districts are announcing plans to return to in-person learning as Maricopa County continues to meet all three coronavirus benchmarks recommended for a safe return.

But Arizona health officials reported Thursday there was a slight uptick in cases, although the number was still below the requirement.

The state’s most populous county met the benchmarks for a third consecutive week, according to the Department of Health Services dashboard.

There was an increase in cases per 100,000 individuals, at 51. The previous number was 43.

The state health agency recommends the benchmarks be at moderate or minimal community spread levels for at least two weeks to allow hybrid learning, which is a combination of in-class and online instruction.

The county also achieved a positivity rate below 7% and hospital visits for COVID-like illnesses.

With benchmarks met, schools in the Valley are opening up their campuses.

The Scottsdale Unified School District governing board voted Wednesday to begin a phased-in classroom return between Sept. 14 and Oct. 12. Children in special education programs are going first.

Mesa Public Schools, the largest district in the state, plans to begin modified in-person learning Monday. Students will alternate between attending classes in person and online.

Other districts have already welcomed children back to campus. Queen Creek Unified School District began in-person learning the week of Aug. 17.

Phoenix Union, however, said it would stay with full remote learning for the first quarter.

Dashboard data came from the week starting Aug. 23 and doesn’t count the past 12 days because of potential lags in information.

The metrics are guidelines, not requirements, and were produced in a joint effort between state health and education leaders.

Ten of the state’s 15 counties met the recommended benchmarks for in-person reopening.

The dashboard went online three weeks ago and will be updated every Thursday.

Schools shut down in-person learning March 16 because of the coronavirus.

Here’s a county-by-county breakdown in how they fared meeting the benchmarks:

Apache – Hits 3 of 3 benchmarks.

Cochise – Hits 3 of 3 benchmarks.

Coconino – Hits 3 of 3 benchmarks.

Gila – Hits 1 of 3 benchmarks.

Graham – Hits 1 of 3 benchmarks.

Greenlee – Hits 3 of 3 benchmarks.

La Paz – Hits 3 of 3 benchmarks.

Maricopa – Hits 3 of 3 benchmarks.

Mohave – Hits 2 of 3 benchmarks.

Navajo – Hits 3 of 3 benchmarks.

Pima – Hits 3 of 3 benchmarks.

Pinal – Hits 2 of 3 benchmarks.

Santa Cruz – Hits 3 of 3 benchmarks.

Yavapai – Hits 3 of 3 benchmarks.

Yuma – Hits 2 of 3 benchmarks.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit

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