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Mesa High School lowers in-person learning days amid COVID-19 cases

(Mesa Public Schools Photo)

PHOENIX — A high school in Arizona’s largest school district is transitioning from a five-day modified in-person model to only two days due to active coronavirus cases within the school community and public health data.

In a letter posted to the Mesa High School website, Principal Kirk Thomas and Associate Superintendent Holly Williams said the decision, beginning Monday, is being made in an attempt to avoid moving to a fully remote model.

Mesa Public Schools began five-day modified in-person learning on Oct. 12.

The school received confirmation Friday that a student who was last on campus Oct. 22 had tested positive for the coronavirus and that parents whose child was in the same classroom as the student would receive separate communication from the school.

Located near Southern Avenue and Gilbert Road in Mesa, the school is in an area that has two of three coronavirus benchmarks in the substantial range, according to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

The latest data shows 113.41 cases per 100,000 people and a 10.23% positivity rate, the percent positivity moving from moderate to substantial with the latest data.

The COVID-like illness remains in the minimal range at 3%.

Mesa High School will be in the updated learning model through at least Nov. 13, according to the message, with the school’s active case count and area metrics being used to determine when it is safe to return to a five-day modified in-person learning model.

The Arizona Department of Health Services updated the recommended guidelines this week for schools deciding which model to deliver, urging school districts to transition from hybrid to virtual learning if all three benchmarks of cases per 100,000 individuals, percent positivity and hospital visits for COVID-like illness move to the substantial spread category for two weeks.

Previous guidelines urged schools to shift if only one of the benchmarks was in the severe category for two weeks.

Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ and Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman in a joint statement Friday, however, said the decision to transition to virtual learning is the school’s to make.

“The important part is that these benchmarks provide schools with data-driven metrics, while schools maintain the ultimate authority to make decisions that are best for their communities.”

Out of the over 67,500 district staff and students, Mesa Public Schools currently has 80 active coronavirus cases, according to the district’s dashboard.

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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