PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey has pushed back the start date for Arizona schools to Aug. 17.
The move came during a press conference Monday as Ducey described COVID-19 cases in Arizona as “going in the wrong direction.”
Ducey said the Aug. 17 date will continuously be evaluated, and did not rule out distance learning for the year.
“The objective is, of course, is to educate our children,” Ducey said.
“We believe that can be done better inside a classroom, the question is can it be done safely? But we’re going to have resources for our teachers. And if we have to do distance learning again, it’s not optimal, but it’s something we certainly got much better at on the turn of a dime.”
The question of whether school can be held safely in a classroom is something Dr. Jeff Hester, Professor Emeritus at ASU, is concerned about.
“You would be hard-pressed to find someone who would more like to be able to send kids back into the classroom than I am. But COVID just doesn’t care about that stuff,” Hester said.
Hester detailed his concerns for returning to school on YouTube.
“You look at a classroom, it’s kind of like, ‘oh that’s what they meant when they said a really good place for COVID to spread,'” Hester said.
Hester believes COVID-19 will not only spread inside the classroom, but kids will take it home to their family, friends and the community, so he wants to see schools stay closed.
“If we open schools there will be significant numbers of people in the community who die of COVID and will never know that the reason they caught COVID is because of the chain of infection that goes back through a school,” Hester said.
Joe Thomas, the president of the Arizona Education Association, said while additional time before school starts gives more time to plan, the concern for teachers is rising cases.
Thomas added he believes finding enough teachers to teach in-person classes will be difficult because of the risk it poses.