With the annual winter break in Arizona schools about to end, Coronavirus levels in the Grand Canyon State still at dangerously high levels, and the rate of vaccinations slower than anticipated, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman has called on Governor Doug Ducey to mandate all schools conduct distance learning for the first two weeks of the second semester.
Writing on social media on January 2, 2021, Superintendent Hoffman relayed:
“Given the severity of our state’s situation and the virus’s trajectory after the holiday period, Governor Ducey should order schools to remain in distance learning for a limited two-week period to align with quarantine protocols and current Arizona Department of Health Services benchmark recommendations.
After this two-week quarantine period, it will be imperative for school leaders to use local health data and continue working closely with local health officials to decide the appropriate instructional model for their communities.
During this quarantine period, schools that do not have waivers from public health officials will continue to provide students a safe place to learn during the school day.
We know the value of in-person learning and I share the desire to see all students return to in-person learning safely. The good news is there is a light at the end of this tunnel.
This week, the Arizona Department of Education will provide additional information to school districts and charter schools to assist public health officials with vaccine distribution.
Educators and school staff are among those who will be vaccinated in group 1B. I will continue to advocate for the prioritization of school professionals during the 1B vaccine distribution so that our schools can safely provide in-person instruction as quickly as possible.
I look forward to a safe return of our teachers and students to the classroom. But now, we must do everything possible to help our healthcare workers and keep our teachers and students safe.”
According to reporting from AZ Central, Governor Ducey will not consider Hoffman’s proposal.
Mr. Ducey’s spokesperson, C.J. Karamargin, issued a text that read:
“This is a local decision, the online option is already available, and the governor has repeatedly made his preference clear: Kids have already lost out on a lot of learning and he wants schools opened, safely.”
With COVID 19 rates surging, families returning from God knows where during the holiday break, and instructors in some valley districts (Gilbert and Chandler for example) threatening to stage a mass sick call on January 4, 2021, it would be prudent for Mr. Ducey to heed Ms. Hoffman’s proposal for a two-week statewide distance learning mandate for all Arizona public schools.
A statewide mask mandate would be welcome as well.
At this critical stage of the pandemic, the strategy of delegating responsibility to local authorities and appeasing a moronic science-denying fringe base will not provide safe and healthy solutions for all of Arizona’s residents.
It is time for Governor Ducey to wise up and act like a decisive leader.