Back on July 24, the Peoria Unified School District governing board voted to postpone in-person classroom instruction at least through Labor Day weekend, from which students would potentially return on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
This week the board will re-visit that date, with an action item to consider re-opening schools Sept. 8.
The governing board will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27 in a live stream at peoriaunified.org/Page/122.
The 2020-21 school year opened Aug. 5, and all 37,000 K-12 students throughout 42 schools began with an all-online curriculum because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The district earlier this month created a medical advisory team to address new pandemic health benchmarks established by Arizona Department of Health Services meant to guide decisions by public schools on when to offer virtual, hybrid or in-person instruction amid the pandemic.
The team includes experts from epidemiology and research, public health, medical practitioners specializing nursing, pediatrics and child psychology.
ADHS specifically recommends the following benchmarks be met prior to offering any in-person learning:
Arizona Gov. Ducey this month said he supports school districts that are fully reopening for in-person learning even though the benchmarks haven’t been met.
Every one of Arizona’s 15 counties is meeting at least one of the three benchmarks for reopening schools set by ADHS. According to the department, two counties – Apache and Yavapai -- meet all three benchmarks.
Maricopa County, home to Peoria Unified, is meeting two benchmarks but is coming up short in the percent positivity category.
During the July meeting, PUSD board member Judy Doane, who cast the lone nay vote in the motion to delay re-opening until Sept. 8, said she believed the district should have re-opened for in-person curriculum sooner.
“I am very disappointed that we are not opening sooner,” she said. “All the studies I have read show that opening our schools is among the safest things we could do.”
At the same July meeting, board member Beverly Pingerelli said priorities need to focus on keeping at-risk populations vulnerable to the virus safe, respecting parents who need to work during the day, the best academic outcomes possible, and providing parents with a choice, including the option for online instruction from home.
“For everyone else, we should plan to open our schools to on-site instruction as soon as the governor permits after Aug. 17 and as the Academy of Pediatrics has recommended,” she said. “That is what we should do as responsible board members and representatives of the community which we serve. I’m empathetic and understand everyone’s fears, including my own.”
The board on Aug. 27 also will convene an executive session for discussion or consideration for legal advice with the attorney or attorneys of the public body regarding procedures for board review of employee grievances.