The districts have met the metrics for one week, but two consecutive weeks meeting the benchmarks are required, and Gilbert Public Schools and Chandler USD still need a second consecutive week of having percent positivity of coronavirus testing under 7%.
The metrics measure the risk-level of a community by district or by ZIP code and are updated weekly on Thursdays. The three metrics the county is eyeing as districts plan how to return to campuses are cases per 100,000 people, percent positivity, and percent of hospital visits for COVID-19-like illness.
In all three districts, according to county data, the overall risk level is moderate as of Aug. 20. According to the county website, "moderate" community spread is considered "sustained transmission with high likelihood or confirmed exposure within communal settings and potential for rapid increase in cases."
Chandler USD plans to continue the first quarter of the school year online, with students attending class via Chandler Online Academy or via Google Classroom. The district plans to evaluate opening plans in September.
"We are watching the metrics constantly and continuing dialogue about safe conditions to open schools," Chandler USD spokesperson Terry Locke in an email. "We are excited to have Marcy Flanagan, the Executive Director for Maricopa Health, join the Governing Board for a study session and deep dive discussion on Wednesday."
The Gilbert Public Schools administration announced Aug. 19 the district will reopen to in-person instruction Sept. 8 as part of a hybrid model with online learning and then move to full-time in-person learning Sept. 21. The decision is dependent on the benchmarks being met and continuing to be met.
A divided Higley USD governing board voted Aug. 8 to resume in-person learning Oct. 12 or earlier at a special Saturday governing board meeting. The decision left open the possibility of returning earlier if Maricopa County meets the reopening benchmarks. Higley has no plans for a hybrid learning model, though it has met the metrics for moderate transmission for two consecutive weeks.
As of Aug. 20, Maricopa County as a whole was meeting two of the three benchmarks for reopening schools, missing the mark on percent positivity, which was 8.7%. The state benchmark requires two consecutive weeks below 7%.