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Queen Creek Unified School District opens for 1st day

In the Queen Creek Unified School District students returned to class in person Monday, despite the county not meeting the state’s COVID-19 safety benchmarks put in.

QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. — Dominic Vandy is starting kindergarten and Joey Norton is an eighth grader. Both of them are happy to be back in the classroom and not at home online learning.

“I was really relieved about it. I need to go to school,” says Norton.

Their parents say even with COVID-19 still spreading, the classroom is the best environment for kids.

“I think it’s for the betterment of the kids to be in the classroom. I think they will do so much better in the classroom than they will at home,” says Dominic Vandy, Dominic’s dad.

Maricopa County, where the district is located, hasn’t met the state’s recommended COVID benchmarks for reopening.  

According to data from the Arizona Department of Health, Queen Creek has some of the highest COVID numbers in the state, with more than 1,200 cases in the zip code.

But that’s not a concern for parents like Sherri Norton.

“Queen Creek I feel is a smaller community. I think maybe things are a little different out here,” says Norton.

The district says it decided to open up classrooms after a majority of parents surveyed asked them to.

“If they catch something, it’s going to happen that’s any of us,” says parent Enoch Thomas.

But for some, the decision was made out of financial necessity.

“I am extremely worried, but I am a working mother, and so… I have no other choice,” says parent Cristine Gutierrez.

Masks are mandatory. The district has sanitation and social guidelines in place, but no limit on class sizes.

We spoke to Queen Creek High School Principal Julie Oster, where several teachers resigned over safety concerns.

“We told our families from the very beginning. Socially distancing in the classroom is impossible. We’re going to try to limit the amount of contact our students have in the classroom,” says Oster.

At the high school level, passing periods have been cut in half, and lunch sizes are limited.

The measures are enough for most parents in the district, who are determined to have a taste of normalcy.

“We’re going to make life as common and normal as possible.”

The district says if someone tests positive CDC and state procedures will be followed.