Arizona Gov. Ducey orders schools to reopen by mid-March despite some concerns

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order Wednesday requiring in-class learning to resume across the state by mid-March, the governor’s office announced. 

“Arizona’s students need to be back in the classroom,” Ducey, a Republican, said in a statement. “More than half of Arizona’s schools are open and offering in-person options. More schools need to follow their lead, and pave the way for equitable education options for every Arizona student.”

Of the 15 Arizona counties, 12 have lowered coronavirus case numbers enough to make reopening schools safe, the governor’s release said. The three counties with high rates of transmission, “as defined by the CDC,” are Coconino, Yavapai and Pinal.

“The CDC and numerous health officials have said time and time again that schools are safe and kids can go back to the classroom,” Ducey said. “We prioritized teachers in our vaccine distribution, and many have already received their second dose. The science is clear: It’s time all kids have the option to return to school so they can get back on track and we can close the achievement gap.”

Gov. Doug Ducey giving Arizona’s State of the State address in January 2021. 
(Gov. Ducey’s office)

The order requires schools to reopen by March 15 or after spring break with the exception of middle and high schools in the three counties with high case numbers. 

State Sen. Paul Boyer, a Republican and chairman of the Arizona Senate Education Committee, applauded the governor’s decision.

“Arizona’s kids and families have undergone a tremendous amount of stress throughout the pandemic,” he said in the governor’s statement. “I’m glad to see more students going back to the classroom, and today’s guidance from the Arizona Department of Health Services will help ensure families that are ready to send their kids back can do so.”

But some educators have expressed doubts over a statewide order, arguing decisions about in-person learning should be made at the local level, according to FOX 10 in Phoenix.

“We’ve worked hand in hand with our communities to decide what is best for our communities that we serve,” Devin Del Palacio, president of the Tolleson Unified High School District Governing Board, said, according to FOX 10. “So it’s important that the governor not circumvent the community’s decisions.”

Kathy Hoffman, a Democrat and Arizona’s superintendent of Public Instruction, said the state should give as “much preparation and planning time” as possible before major changes are implemented at schools.

“To achieve stability to our school communities, it is necessary to provide them with adequate time to inform and ready their staff, students and families,” she said, according to FOX 10.

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