Back to School Baby Steps

TUHSD Governing Board’s hybrid plan for returning to campus

Data provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services. Graphic by Mackenzie Keelan.

Data provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services. Graphic by Mackenzie Keelan.

Due to the outburst of COVID-19, it has become equally as difficult as it is important to stay up to date with information. As of August 10, there are 187, 523 identified cases of Coronavirus in Arizona and 4,154 known deaths, according to reports by the Arizona Department of Health Services. 

Tempe Union High School District started the school year online on August 3 with the original intent to begin offering an in-person learning option starting on August 17. 

However, after considering the newest developments with COVID-19 in Arizona, TUHSD has come to the decision to create an alternative plan. 

The Tempe Union High School District Governing Board met for a meeting on August 5 to discuss plans for returning to school. The Board voted unanimously to continue with virtual learning for the entirety of the first quarter and push the return to in-person learning options until Tuesday, October 13. 

At this time, schools are planning on reopening on October 13 with a hybrid model, in which students who choose to return to in-person learning will spend 2 days a week at their school’s campus and the other 3 at home with their usual virtual schedule. Students will be split into two groups, depending on last name, and will attend in-person school on either Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday.

The Board also agreed that if the metrics for reopening, provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services are met, then students and faculty will be able to resume in-person schooling before the second quarter.

In contrast, some school districts, such as Queen Creek, are choosing to offer in-person learning options starting on August 17. At a meeting on August 11, the Queen Creek Unified School District Governing Board voted 4-1 to return to in-person school. As they do recognize that there are families uncomfortable with an in-person learning environment at this time, virtual learning will continue to be available. 

The metrics laid out by the Arizona Department of Health Services consist of three benchmarks: the number of cases, people testing positive and hospitalizations.  It is recommended, but not required, that school’s open in a limited capacity when the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in their county falls below 7%. 

This should ideally be paired with the country’s rate of new cases per 10,000 people dipping below 100 per week for two weeks, or a two-week consecutive decline in cases, as well as, the percent of hospital visits due to COVID-like illnesses falling below 10% for a two-week period. 

To put things into perspective, Maricopa County, which TUHSD falls within, reported 273 new cases on September 3, 183 on September 4 and 139 on September 5. While this is not low enough to meet the ADHS metrics, it is a vast improvement from the early July peak of more than 3,500 cases per day. 

Hopefully, these trends of improvement will continue until Tempe Union is able to reach the recommended numbers for a safe return to in-person schooling.