Phoenix – Today, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman was joined by Dr. Jason Vargas, President, Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Ylenia Aguilar, Governing Board President of Osborn School District, to discuss the next steps for schools to return to in-person learning safely. As outlined by new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, in-person learning is possible with consistent and transparent mitigation strategies in place, and the community's support, particularly for grades K-8.
While in-school transmission of COVID-19 can be relatively low when mitigation strategies are in place, schools do not operate in a vacuum. It remains critical for all community members to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19. The Arizona Department of Education urges all community members to get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available to them.
“I recognize that some school communities need more time to plan and prepare. I want to support schools at every stage, so that when they do resume in-person learning, they are doing so safely with mitigation strategies in place, enforced, and with the support of their families, students, and teachers.” said Superintendent Hoffman.
“We know that child-to-child spread is not the cause of community transmission; it simply mirrors what is going on the community. Because of that and to keep our schools open we must do our best to decrease risk of community spread,” said Dr. Vargas. “We all have a shared responsibility to ensure there is as little disease as possible circulating in the community when we send our children back.”
For many of our students, returning to schools after nearly a year of distance or hybrid learning will be an anxious experience. The trauma endured by many students and families due to this virus is deep – particularly in the hardest-hit communities. Now is the time to lead with science and rebuild the trust of our families, students, and teachers so they feel safe returning to the classroom.
“Every school district will need to make the appropriate decisions in order to keep their communities safe, so we should expect that many decisions will be different across Arizona,” said Ylenia Aguilar. “It will take a community effort to support and manage the safe reopening of schools for in-person learning.”
To support schools' efforts for a safe return to in-person learning, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) recently announced allocations from the second federal COVID-19 relief bill. These one-time recovery funds will be critical to helping schools implement mitigation strategies like improved ventilation.
Additionally, the ADE used discretionary funds to ensure that all non-profit public schools receive federal funding, regardless of their size or location. This decision is critical to supporting our small, rural, and remote schools, which far too often are left behind when resources are allocated.
The road to recovery from COVID-19 is still long for Arizona's schools, students, and families. Together we must continue to make data-driven decisions - with community input - to meet all students' needs.