Arizona’s school districts have a fundamental obligation to protect the students entrusted to their care and provide a safe working environment for their employees.
Both the Arizona Department of Health Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to recommend and strongly encourage vaccination and mask wearing in public for unvaccinated individuals.
The Arizona Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey have prohibited school districts from implementing these measures by law, and school districts are complying with those mandates.
The recent attempt by Ducey’s office to declare unlawful district policy that requires an unvaccinated student to quarantine after known exposure to COVID-19 is nonsensical, is in direct conflict with the guidance of his own department of health services, and places students at risk for political gain.
The Arizona School Boards Association will continue to recommend districts follow established AZDHS guidance to have students who display COVID-like symptoms or have contact with a COVID-positive person stay home from school. Schools are prepared to work with parents and students to ensure they do not fall behind during any period they are not at school.
Arizona’s school districts are tired of being the battleground for a political argument over response to COVID-19 that has nothing to do with science or public health. COVID-19 is a real, highly contagious disease spread by close contact between people. Schools are accustomed to working with and following the guidance of public health officials. Vaccines, masks, physical distancing and isolation/quarantine are the strategies they recommended to stop its spread. Mandatory masking and vaccines are no longer options.
Schools will comply with the law, however unwise it may prove to be, continue to encourage their communities to be safe, and do what Arizona’s state and county public health officials recommend until they are informed differently by those entities.
Since the state’s political leadership has decided it knows what is best for Arizona’s students, we await clarification from AZDHS. The consequences of the governor’s decisions for the health of Arizona’s students will be his to bear.
Editor’s note: Chris Kotterman is the Director of Governmental Relations for Arizona School Boards Association.