As Deer Valley Unified School District prepares to return to in-person learning next week, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) issued explanations for the current rise in coronavirus numbers.
“Today we are adding a significantly higher number of cases than our recent average: 1,753 new #COVID19 cases and 38 deaths are being added to the ADHS dashboard,” the department tweeted Sept. 17.
Arizona Department of Health Services director Cara Christ further wrote, “Over the next couple of days, Arizona will be adding a significantly higher number of cases than our recent average. This is a result of advancements in testing, and includes recently classified positive antigen cases dating back over the previous several months.”
DVUSD voted in a special meeting Sept. 10 to begin a phased-in return to in-person learning starting Thursday, Sept. 24.
The first phase will see pre-kindergarten and Head Start students, kindergarten students, and high school seniors return to their respective campuses for classroom learning that day. The staggered return will include first through third grades, seventh grade, and high school juniors on Sept. 29.
Following that will be fourth through sixth grades, eighth grade, and high school sophomores on Monday, Oct. 5, and finally K-8 middle school grades and high school freshmen on Wednesday, Oct. 14.
All students and staff will return to in-person instruction with safety protocols in place.
The decision to phase in a return to in-person learning was split. DVUSD governing board members Ann O’Brien, Ann Ordway and Julie Read voted for the motion, while Darcy Tweedy and Jenny Frank provided nay votes.
“I would wonder if it’s possible to have less of a stagger and still have everyone in by Oct. 14,” Ms. Tweedy said at the Sept. 10 meeting. “But maybe wait on the entry for a week to see if these numbers are heading in the wrong direction. I don’t want to open and (then) close the very next week. I mean that’s ridiculous.”
Superintendent Curtis Finch called the plan “a staggered, slow approach,” and said the district would remain vigilant to monitor and adjust where needed.
“I like the plan. It makes sense,” he said. “And the fact that we have folks on both sides of the aisle giving us an earful is probably a good sign that we’re in the middle where we should be. There are people saying we should have had (students) going to school two months ago. There are people who are saying we should not go to school this year. I think the plan is reasonable.”
At least 30 new coronavirus deaths and 696 new cases were reported in Arizona on Sept. 16, according to a New York Times database. Over the past week, there have been an average of 480 cases per day, a decrease of 1 percent from the average two weeks earlier.
As of Thursday morning, there have been at least 209,911 cases and 5,376 deaths in Arizona since the beginning of the pandemic, the database reported.
The board will meet next at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22, and can be live-streamed here.