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Arizona superintendent expresses concerns over reopening schools to in-person classes

In the letter, Kathy Hoffman expressed concern for the growing number of cases of COVID-19 in Arizona and wants schools to return to in-person classes safely.

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said in a letter released Wednesday while many share the goal of getting schools back open, it can’t be done until COVID-19 is “under control.”

Hoffman released the letter following the discussion at the White House Summit on Safely Reopening America’s Schools.

In the letter, Hoffman expressed concern for the growing number of cases of COVID-19 in Arizona and wants schools to return to in-person classes safely.

“I think we’re in uncharted territory right now,” Dr. Kevin Stephan, infectious disease specialist with Nod Specialists said.

Stephan said while kids are less likely to get a severe case of COVID-19, milder cases could cause more spread in schools.

“Within that school setting then there’s the secondary potential of spread if they then go home and expose their families and we don’t know who’s in those households,” Stephan said.

When considering going back to school there are also concerns over making sure kids don’t slip through the cracks or fall behind in their education.

“The group of families and students that will be most impacted by the consequences of not returning to school are also the same ones who will be catching COVID in that family home could be devastating,” Michelle Campuzano a Roosevelt School District Board Member said.

Campuzano said schools need to gear up for remote learning to make sure kids don’t get left behind.

“I think that we just need to plan not to return put everyone at ease, calm that anxiety so that we can start looking at the equity gaps and the kids who don’t have what they need to be successful virtually in school and make sure we have that,” Campuzano said.

The Arizona Education Association released a survey of more than 7,600 of its members Wednesday. Overwhelmingly, teachers and staff are concerned about their colleagues, students, students’ families, and their own families contracting COVID-19.

Hoffman’s letter also called for changes to stop the spread of COVID-19, saying, “I welcome more aggressive action from Gov. Ducey and our public health officials to help mitigate the virus’s spread.”

In a statement from Gov. Doug Ducey’s office, a spokesperson said, in part, “We’re prioritizing health and safety and making sure families have options.”

On the county level, Maricopa County Medical Director, Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine added it’s still too early to make decisions on back-to-school next month.

“There’s no way to make a recommendation about schools going back in August at this time because we need to look at the date of our community transmission first,” Sunenshine said.

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