November 14, 2020

Education notebook: Rising COVID cases drive schools toward remote learning

A look back at this week's education stories in Southern Arizona and the state.

360 school social distancing A flyer taped to the ground at Mesquite Elementary in Vail reminds students to maintain social distancing. August 2020.
Robert Lindberg/AZPM Staff

COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Arizona. This week there were three days with over 3,000 cases reported. Some schools in Southern Arizona have responded by announcing plans to pause or delay hybrid classes, which bring students to campus.

Tucson Unified School District Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo announced this week that the district will not begin hybrid classes until the county is securely in a state of moderate virus transmission.

The Sunnyside Unified School District also announced that it will move to remote classes after the Thanksgiving break, but plans to return to hybrid classes for the spring semester.

Flowing Wells High School made a similar announcement that classes will be fully remote after Thanksgiving break due to quarantine needs among staff, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

As of Thursday, the majority of the criteria that the Pima County Health Department set to determine local recommendations had either been met or had seen progress. However, health department officials have said that cases are on the rise and that trend is not likely to reverse soon.

The Arizona Department of Health Services has Pima County listed as approved for hybrid instruction, though the criteria to recommend schools close was amended in late October.

COVID-19 cases at the University of Arizona campus have stayed below the peak numbers the school saw in September.

UA students will not return for on-campus classes this semester after Thanksgiving, a plan the university committed to prior to the start of fall classes.

School leaders, state officials implore public to reduce COVID-19 for sake of education


COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Arizona, and school superintendents and state officials are pleading with the public to slow the spread of the virus for the sake of students and teachers.

While some schools are teaching in person and some remain entirely online, the majority of schools across the state are in a hybrid instruction model. In a Monday press conference, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said despite the challenges that creates for teachers, students and families, recent spikes in COVID-19 cases indicate remote learning could continue for a long time, and winter sports aren't safe to begin in half the counties in the state.

Learn more here.

TUSD: Hybrid classes won't start until virus transmission is ‘moderate’


The Tucson Unified School District will not resume in-person classes until Pima County is securely in a state of moderate transmission or safer, the district superintendent said this week.

Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo elaborated on TUSD’s decision not to begin hybrid classes this semester at a Thursday evening press conference.

“Hybrid learning is delayed for the duration of the first semester,” Trujillo said. “We are setting our sights on Jan. 4, but that’s a big 'if.' That is if Pima County, as a county, is in a state of moderate spread of the virus or better.”

Learn more here.

Sunnyside school district to switch to remote learning after Thanksgiving

Arizona Daily Star

The Sunnyside Unified School District will switch to fully remote learning after the Thanksgiving break and remain that way until next semester.

The move is due to rising COVID-19 cases in Pima County and among members of the Sunnyside community. SUSD Superintendent Steven Holmes noted that there have not been any cases of transmission in district schools, rather the cases come from outside activities, the Arizona Daily Star reports.

The district began hybrid learning on Oct. 19.

Learn more here.

Child care scholarships available for Tucson and South Tucson families


Families in Tucson and South Tucson who are struggling to pay for child care due to a COVID-related event may qualify for a short-term scholarship to cover those expenses.

Tucson mayor and council approved the use of $500,000 of the city's federal CARES Act funds to create scholarships for these struggling families. Peg Harmon, the CEO of Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona, said they'll be in charge of dispersing the funds, and she said they'll begin as soon as the city transfers the money.

Harmon said families who have experienced the loss of a job, illness or a furlough are candidates for the scholarship. She said the funds can cover past-due child care bills, registration fees and ongoing tuition for children 12 or younger till the end of December 2020.

Learn more here.

Arizona school districts' responses vary to growing outbreak


PHOENIX — Arizona has reported over 3,000 additional known COVID-19 cases as the deepening coronavirus outbreak prompted varying responses by school districts across the state.

Some districts are returning to online instruction from partial in-school instruction and others are keeping their keeping their schools open. The additional 3,015 cases and 17 deaths reported Friday by state Department of Health Services increased the state’s totals to 269,577 cases and 6,257 deaths.

The state has provided school districts with voluntary benchmarks to consider when deciding whether to reopen or reclose schools. The benchmarks were updated Thursday and show worsening conditions in many areas recently.

Learn more here.

UA leaders praise students as COVID-19 numbers stay low


Last week, the University of Arizona recorded about 40 new cases of COVID-19 among students, faculty and staff. In September, the UA was recording hundreds of new cases a day.

UA President Robert Robbins said an increase in personal responsibility among students, especially in the area of parties, has led to the drop in cases.

“The Campus Area Response Team, the CART team, documented only seven incidents this past week. This is an improvement from 18, the week of October 26 (which included Halloween),” said Robbins.

Last week was the second highest week for parties broken up by the CART team since the university began reporting the numbers in mid-September.

Learn more here.

COVID cases increase at ASU and GCU, down at NAU and UA

Arizona Republic

Recent reports from Arizona State University and Grand Canyon State University show an increase in positive COVID-19 cases. At GCU, university officials have attributed the increase to Halloween parties and have urged students to avoid traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, the Arizona Republic reports.

Meanwhile, data from Northern Arizona University reveals a consistent decline in positive cases. Cases are also on the decline at the University of Arizona.

Learn more here.

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