East Valley students sent home after increase in active COVID-19 cases
PHOENIX — All fifth and sixth graders at an East Valley elementary school will temporarily move to remote learning after a significant increase in active COVID-19 cases were detected on the campus.
Ellsworth Elementary in SanTan Valley, which started classes July 26, sent a letter Friday to parents saying the students will be allowed back in the classroom on Aug. 16 following a reported 53 active cases at the school.
The students will all learn from home through Google Classroom during their quarantine.
Students and staff who test positive will be excluded from participation in any in-person or on-campus activity until they meet return criteria set by state and local health authorities, the J.O. Combs Unified School District said.
Ellsworth said the school remains open for in-person learning for students in preschool through fourth grade.
“Although we cannot mandate mask wearing, students and staff are also strongly encouraged to use face coverings at school to help prevent transmission,” the letter says.
J.O. Combs School District has not imposed a face mask mandate, a move some districts have made in defiance of Gov. Doug Ducey and the Arizona Legislature.
In June, Ducey signed a ban on mask requirements into law as part of the state budget. The bill that includes the ban doesn’t go into effect until Sept. 29, but it contains a clause to make the mask provision retroactive to June 30.
Proponents of the ban say it will keep students from being denied opportunities for in-person education after doing so much remote learning last school year. Critics, including, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, think local authorities should be able to decide what’s best for the the health of their students and staff.
“We want our kids back in the classroom learning,” Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show last week after a Yavapai County school district closed campuses less than a week after they opened because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
“But when COVID-19 is spreading and people are testing positive or they’re exposed and … they can’t be back in the school building, then we’re creating a situation that is the opposite of what Gov. Ducey and I want.”