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Phoenix Union High School District students return to class with masks

Students at Phoenix Union High School District schools went back to their classrooms for the first time in over a year. And they did it while wearing masks.

PHOENIX — Masks were the number one supply needed for the start of the 2021 school year at Phoenix Union High School District.

The district implemented a mask requirement for all 34,000 of its students and staff across all of its schools despite Gov. Doug Ducey’s orders that ban schools from implementing such measures.

On the first day of the new school year, “everybody was wearing their masks, no one was complaining,” Isaiah Garcia said.

Garcia is a junior at Maryvale High School. He said school seemed normal in comparison to what the last year and a half have been. So, for him, wearing a mask was an easy task to follow.

“The virus is spreading a lot now that people have stopped wearing the masks, so I rather just keep my mask on,” Garcia said.

Maritza Martinez, a sophomore also at Maryvale High school said every one of the students she saw Monday complied with wearing a face-covering inside the school.

“No teachers had to tell people ‘you have to wear a mask’ because everybody was already wearing it,” she said.

PXU is the first school district to defy a ban on mask mandates enacted by the legislature last month. That law doesn’t take effect until the end of September, which allows the district to require the masks now.

RELATED: Phoenix Union High School District issues mask mandate. Does it violate a new state law?

As part of its decision, the district noted that all 32 of the zip copes it serves are seeing high or substantial spread of COVID-19. But cases in Arizona have soared, predominately due to the Delta variant.

The latest model projection for daily infections by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showed a large gat of what cases would look like if universal masks were implemented and not. The graph shows a sharp decline in cases with universal mask-wearing, versus an influx of cases without a mandate.

According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, as of the end of July, there were more children in the hospital with COVID-19 than at any point since February of this year with pediatric hospitalizations doubling in the last 30 months.

“Masks are a great security for children at schools,” said Lilia Jesus, whose daughter is a sophomore at Maryvale High School. “I’m glad they are requiring them here, we need them until we have wiped out the coronavirus.”

RELATED: 70% of American adults have at least started COVID vaccination process

In a statement the Phoenix Union District said:

As expected, our decision to follow CDC guidelines and prioritize the safety and wellness of our staff, students, and families has been overwhelmingly supported. Certainly, that does not mean that every member of our broader community agrees. We remain extremely confident in our most recent masking announcement and will continue to stand behind our commitment to do all we can to protect our people. It has been a very successful and productive first day in Phoenix Union. Our staff and students are excited to be back.”

The District leadership and Governing Board will discuss mitigation plans at their next Board meeting on August 5.

They will also discuss masking policies and consider the temporary continuation of the mask requirement until the CDC and or other federal, state, and local health agencies change their masking guidelines.

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