Tomorrow is the day Governor Doug Ducey is set to announce his decision on whether to extend the opening day of in-person instruction at the state’s schools later than August 17.

With Arizona COVID 19 numbers still dangerously high, Arizona School Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman issued a statement on social media which read:

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Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman

“To align with the vision laid out in the Arizona Department of Education’s Roadmap to Reopening Schools and to ensure educator and student safety, I’ve asked Governor Doug Ducey to include, at a minimum, the following priorities in his upcoming plans to support our school communities:”

“📍 Use public health data to determine reopening metrics. School leaders should be empowered to work with local public health officials to examine data and determine when it’s safe to reopen for in-person learning, rather than relying solely on dates. Metrics, including but not limited to those listed below, will provide communities with clear targets for mitigating COVID-19:
✅ A downward trajectory of confirmed new cases of COVID-19
✅ A decrease in positivity rates for COVID-19 testing
✅ The widespread availability of testing with timely results.”

“📍 Guarantee full funding for distance learning to ensure comprehensive, high-quality teaching and learning opportunities and critical student services. Distance learning costs to schools are high. Whether their school buildings are safe to reopen or not, schools need flexibility and budget stability for students and educators to succeed in the upcoming year. Many public schools have already invested considerably in technology, online learning platforms, and other tools needed during distance learning. Students need access to services that support their well-being and academic success across multiple scenarios and conditions during a pandemic.”

“Like all educators, I want students back in our classrooms because that’s the best place for learning and growing. However, we cannot ask schools to make decisions that will impact their teachers’ and students’ health and safety without first providing them with the necessary public health data and funding to make safe decisions.”

Leading Democrats in the Legislature and 2020 Candidates also urge the Governor to take safety into account and invest resources to make that happen.

At an education press call organized by the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (ADLCC,) Democratic House Leader Charlene Fernandez and five other legislative districts (LD) educator candidates offered their perspective on what needs to happen to safely reopen the state’s schools.

The other panelists were:

  • LD 17 State House Representative Jennifer Pawlik
  • LD 15 State House Candidate Dr. Kristin Dybvig-Pawleko
  • LD 20 State House Candidate Judy Schwiebert
  • LD 21 State House Candidate Kathy Knecht
  • LD 28 State Senate Candidate Christine Marsh

All the panelists want schools to safely reopen for in-person instruction.

They all recognized as Representative Pawlik expressed, that the current reopening date of August 17 is “not realistic” and “the voice of educators” need to be heard.

All of them expressed concern that some Republican leading figures would ignore the science and willingly, as leader Fernandez said “play with lives” in advocating for the premature reopening of schools or doing so without adequate health and safety measures in place like, as Ms. Marsh pointed out, reducing class sizes from the mid to high thirties markedly downward.

They all agreed as Ms. Dybvig-Pawleko said, that “without proper resources, we can not risk putting people in harm’s way” and it was necessary, as Ms. Marsh relayed that “we need to prioritize kids (and educators) health and wellbeing during the pandemic.”

The panelists all concurred that school reopening during a pandemic can not be done on the cheap. Ms. Dybvig-Pawleko expressed disgust that more is spent “on incarceration rather than education.” They all called for the Governor and Legislature to undo, what Ms. Schweibert pointed out, 20 years of underfunding schools, and recognize, as Ms. Knecht stated, that fully funding schools is an “investment in our collective future.”

They called on the Governor and the legislature to fully fund safety measures for schools to safely reopen as well as other priorities like Representative Pawlik mentioned like:

  • Bridging the digital divide.
  • Helping children in special education.
  • Assisting students with accessing advanced classes.

Teachers launch Wednesday Night Protests

According to reporting by AZ Central, groups of teachers went to the streets yesterday, demanding that Governor Ducey delay the opening of in-person instruction until at least October with slogans that said:

  • “I’d rather see your kids on a laptop than a ventilator.”
  • “Teachers are not martyrs.”
  • “AZ #1 in COVID.”

One instructor from the Cartwright District said teachers should not be used as “test subjects.”

There were also counterprotests by some parents wanting schools to reopen.

Moving Forward

It is vital that the Governor listens to the voices of health experts and educators like Superintendent Hoffman and the others when making his decision tomorrow on when to reopen school in-person instruction.

It is apparent to all that August 17, with the current Coronavirus situation in Arizona, is not going to be a realistic date for most, if not all, local school districts to reopen.

As Democratic House Leader Fernandez stated, now is not the time to “play with lives.”

The Governor should delay the reopening of in-person instruction until all agree, as Superintendent Hoffman suggests, the public health metrics say it is safe to do so.

Mr. Ducey should also follow Ms. Hoffman’s suggestion and fully fund online digital instruction.

Schools should not be financially penalized for having to resort to educating all of the state’s children online due to a health pandemic

Hopefully, Governor Ducey will make the right decision for Arizona’s families and educators tomorrow.

Hopefully.

 

 

 

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