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Hoffman prefers distance learning in Arizona while virus spread is high

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

PHOENIX — Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said Wednesday she prefers for schools to be in distance learning mode while the state’s coronavirus spread remains substantial.

Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show that community risk and infection rates remain her biggest concerns as Arizona continues to try and navigate through the coronavirus pandemic.

“We all want our schools to be able to have in-person instruction but some districts when they see high spread in their communities, they feel having in-person instruction is putting their students and teachers at risks,” Hoffman said.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last Tuesday there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission, but Hoffman said there’s more that needs to be considered in the decision-making progress.

Localized transmission rates and risks for families, especially those who don’t have ample health care resources, worry Hoffman.

She also pointed out that distance learning is recommended under the state’s COVID-19 benchmarks in all 15 counties.

The benchmarks were created by the Arizona Department of Health Services as guidance for decisions about whether to offer in-person instruction, but districts have the final say in the matter.

“Our school boards are looking at the local data and talking to the county health officials to help guide their decision,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman, in her State of Education address Monday, stressed the need for patience as vaccination numbers continue to increase, including for educators.

The Democrat also pointed to an infection rate of less than 10% as a key metric that would make her feel more comfortable for a return to in-person learning.

So far this week, the recorded positive rate statewide is 14% for 12,158 people tested.

“We know that COVID is not going to be completely eradicated and we know it’s going to take a significant amount of months to get all of our teachers and staff vaccinated, so we are continuing to provide the most updated research and guidance,” Hoffman said.

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