/ Modified apr 3, 2021 11:15 a.m.

Education notebook: TUSD plans for in-person ceremonies, UA keeps mask mandate

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

Students walking campus Students at the University of Arizona campus.

With classes back in session, both on campus and online, local school districts are looking to the end of the year with a spark of optimism.

A year after a wave of canceled plans, the Tucson Unified School District announced that seniors will get in-person proms and graduation ceremonies this spring. District superintendent Gabriel Trujillo encouraged seniors to get vaccinated before the events, though it is not required.

The district will also be holding a vaccination clinic for employees next week. Partnering with Walgreens, up to 1,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are available for all TUSD employees, subs included.

The University of Arizona will also hold in-person graduation ceremonies, which it announced a few weeks ago.

This week, the university affirmed that it will keep its mask mandate on its campus, despite Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order that allowed for such mandates to end. UA also expanded in-person classes this week.

TUSD greenlights in-person proms and graduations


Seniors in the Tucson Unified School District will get to enjoy in-person graduation ceremonies and proms this year.

District superintendent Gabriel Trujillo announced that both of these ceremonies will be held outside, on school campuses. Participants will be expected to wear masks.

“We're not obligating the students to get a vaccine, we're strongly encouraging,” Trujillo said. “We would love to see all of our seniors try to at least get the first of the two doses, two weeks prior to either the graduation ceremony or the prom.”

At graduation ceremonies, students will be limited to four guests each. Guests must have a physical ticket and will be spaced out three feet apart.

TUSD partners with Walgreens for employee vaccination clinic


The Tucson Unified School District is teaming up with Walgreens to host a vaccination clinic for district employees next week.

The clinic will be held in the parking lot of the district office and will run from Tuesday April 6 to Thursday April 8.

“Walgreens will be on site administering a maximum of 1,000 Johnson & Johnson single shot vaccines,” Trujillo said.

Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo said that all TUSD employees are eligible, including teachers, staff and substitutes.

Trujillo said that so far about 300 employees have signed up through the district's internal outreach program.

Children’s Museum reopens Tucson, Oro Valley locations

Arizona 360

After closing its doors for months at a time because of the pandemic, the Children’s Museum recently welcomed back families at its facilities in Tucson and Oro Valley. Tony Paniagua visited the Tucson museum to see how operations have adapted.

Learn more here.

Longtime Tucson educator and activist dies

Arizona Daily Star

Tucson educator and activist Michael Gordy died of COVID-19 on MArch 18, the Arizona Star reports. He was 70 at the time.

His long career in the Tucson Unified School District lasted 28 years> He spent that time as a prominent environmental activist as well.

Learn more here.

Tucson student wins state spelling bee

Arizona Daily Star

Tanish Doshi, an eighth grader at BASIS Oro Valley won the Arizona Spelling, the Arizona Daily Star reports.

Doshi won after spelling the word “cadre” right in the final round. Pima County School Superintendent Dustin Williams congratulated the teen.

Learn more here.

Arizona school district lays off workers amid low enrollment


GILBERT — A metro Phoenix school district has laid off 152 teachers and other employees next year, citing low student enrollment amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Gilbert Public Schools employees were notified by email Friday that the district implemented what it called a necessary reduction in force because of declining enrollment.

District spokesperson Dawn Antestenis said the district has lost 1,600 students. She did not say which employees were laid off, what the criteria was and how teachers were notified. Antestenis said those questions would be addressed at a district governing board meeting Tuesday.

The Arizona Education Association teachers union said it was disappointed with the layoffs.

Learn more here.

UA not lifting mask requirements


The University of Arizona has a strict mask wearing policy for anyone coming on campus and it is not changing despite Governor Doug Ducey’s executive order allowing mask mandates to be lifted.

Dr. Robert Robbins, president of the University of Arizona, said the mitigation and push for vaccines is important not only for the university but for the community as a whole.

“Otherwise, this virus is going to continue to mutate and kill people,” said Robbins

The University of Arizona entered Phase Three this week, which means allowing classes of 100 or fewer students to meet in person.

Learn more here.

UA researchers explore origin of Earth’s water


Two University of Arizona researchers are looking to outer space for answers about how water arrived on Earth.

Jessica Barnes and Pierre Haenecour will deliver the opening presentation at this year’s U of A College of Science public lecture series. Barnes notes they are using discoveries about asteroids to piece together clues about how the Earth formed.

Scientists theorize the water in the oceans came from objects in the early solar system that collided with Earth. They think the objects were similar to present-day asteroids and comets where water has been detected in recent years.

The 16th annual College of Science lecture series begins Thursday and continues through the month of April. All the presentations will be delivered online and the connection is free.

HEROES study: COVID vaccines 90% effective


A University of Arizona Health Sciences study has found that first responders are one of the groups most at risk of catching the coronavirus. It is one of the studies the Centers for Disease Control cited in a report confirming the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 90% effective.

The Arizona HEROES project involves tracking COVID-19 among people in occupations that pose a high risk of exposure to the virus.

The study found the real-world effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines confirmed results from the drug companies' own clinical trials.

Learn more here.

Arizona State University plans a virtual graduation ceremony


TEMPE — Arizona State University is planning a schoolwide virtual graduation ceremony for the Class of 2021 on May 3. More than 19,000 undergraduate and graduate students are expected to earn degrees.

The graduation ceremony also will include in-person commencement events hosted by individual colleges.

School officials say the in-person events will be limited to graduates and hosted by academic deans.

ASU hasn’t held any kind of in-person graduation ceremony since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic more than a year ago.

The University of Arizona plans to commemorate spring graduates with a series of in-person events May 11-18 while Northern Arizona University is planning a virtual graduation ceremony on April 30.

Learn more here.

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