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COVID-19 causes Arizona schools to close, open and close again

There's the matter of whether or not the drawbacks of reporting exposure to or symptoms of COVID-19 are so great that parents and kids hesitate to do so.

PHOENIX — Schools are opening and closing again. 

Parents and students are left reacting on the fly: Forced to rearrange work schedules, establish child care and stay on top of their kids' virtual class schedule. 

Then there is the question of fundamental fairness. Some students may be forced to quarantine. Meanwhile, their classmates continue to get in-person instruction. All the while, they’re all expected to complete the same assignments.

“It was very hard online," Lena Travis said. 

Lena, a fourth grader at Canyon Springs in Anthem, explained the differences of virtual learning versus in-person instruction. 

“The teachers wouldn’t get to help us at all. In real school, they would have to help us a lot," she said. 

Lena remains in school. But as Maricopa County faces a second wave of coronavirus cases, some students are being forced to quarantine, including Angelia Fugatt’s daughter, Allena. 

Fugatt supported the decision, but it doesn’t make it any easier for this future college track competitor.

“Ended up having to miss her sectional and state cross country meet, and she’s a senior,” Fugatt said. 

Additionally, the uncertainty places hardships on parents. For example, Lena’s dad, who is a firefighter, says it is tough to rework adult schedules as quickly as schools can halt in-person learning. Plus, he says virtual learning requires heavy parental involvement.

“Just navigating the platforms, using the computers, and trying to download certain assignments and upload certain assignments," Ryan Travis, Lena's dad, said. "You can’t expect a young child to do that on their own.”

Finally, there's the matter of whether or not the drawbacks of reporting exposure to or symptoms of COVID-19 are so great that both parents and kids are hesitant to do just that.

“The right thing to do, the moral thing to do, is you have to report any symptoms your kids have,” Ryan said. 

There are no easy answers. But for Gidget Stenzel, a parent at Litchfield Elementary School District, a consistent approach is preferred.

“I wish they would have just left it distance learning until it was 100%, like we're done with this COVID situation, let's get back to school, instead of let's try hybrid, OK, let's try in person for a week, never mind, the numbers are too high, everybody go back to distance.”