Chandler USD officials are recommending students and staff continue learning in person based on the number of COVID-19 cases reported at school sites across the district.

The recommendation came during a study session Nov. 18 with the Chandler USD governing board. No final decisions were made; rather, the board and district staff had a discussion on the district-specific COVID-19 data and how to handle potential surges at schools.

Staff recommended schools that reach a certain percentage of active COVID-19 cases close for five days, during which students would shift to virtual learning. The district recommended for elementary schools to close, they must reach a 2% rate, junior high schools must reach 1.5% and high schools reach 1% to close.

"Our recommendations don't come lightly," Assistant Superintendent Frank Narducci said. "Our data looks different at every school."

Since students returned to in-person learning full time Sept. 14, the district has reported 178 COVID-19 cases among students and 46 among staff. The district also reported 28 students attending the district's all-virtual option—Chandler Online Academy—had tested positive for the virus. More than 1,800 students have had to quarantine as a result of coming in contact with a case, according to the district. Of those who quarantined, nine students tested positive for the virus after having close contact with someone who had contracted the coronavirus.

"Early data does not indicate that COVID-19 is being transmitted on our campuses at a substantial rate," Narducci said.

The governing board members asked that the district work more closely with teachers and staff in creating their plans for handling surges. Board member Lara Bruner said she felt that the district could do a better job than what they had presented.

"I know it's incredibly difficult, but I do think that we can do better," Bruner said during the meeting.

Board President Barb Mozdzen said she was grateful to see district-specific data during the presentation.

"I'm very, very happy to see that our mitigation strategies are being proven effective," Mozdzen said.

But board members, Superintendent Camille Casteel and district staff emphasized parents and families must do their part to keep schools open, meaning parents need to keep their children home if they are sick or exhibiting any COVID-19-like symptoms.

"We really need parents help to monitor their students and not send their students to school when they are sick," said Larry Rother, the senior executive director of PK-12 Educational Services.