On Jan. 13, the Chandler USD governing board voted 3-2, with Lara Bruner and Lindsay Love dissenting, to resume in-person instruction for all grade levels Jan. 19 after a imposing virtual learning for the two weeks prior.
In his State of the State address in January, Gov. Doug Ducey encouraged districts to continue with in-person learning at all grade levels across the state. On Jan. 19, the state reported 6,417 new COVID-19 cases, with 14.4% of all tests statewide yielding a positive result. In Maricopa County, 16% of all COVID-19 cases have stemmed from children ages 0-19, according to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. On Jan. 17, 837 new cases in children between ages 0-19 were added to the county dashboard. More than 65,000 total cases in Maricopa County have been linked to children and teens.
"We acknowledge that in-person instruction is preferred by many students and parents in our community, and we miss being able to teach our students in person, too," read the CEA statement. "But after voting to move to virtual instruction on January 4 due to high community spread and other factors, our Governing Board voted to resume in-person instruction just over a week later, when the COVID numbers in Arizona were just as bad as (or even worse than) they were the week before."
At its Jan. 13 meeting, the governing board heard pleas from parents, students and some teachers to return to in-person learning. Other parents and teachers asked the board to "follow the science" and remain in virtual learning until the COVID-19 numbers began to go down in Maricopa County. On the morning of Jan. 19, Chandler USD reported 17 active COVID-19 cases on its districtwide dashboard.
"Chandler rightly prides itself in being a 'district of choice,' but for parents who read this research and want to keep their children safe, their choices are limited," read the CEA statement. "Chandler Online Academy currently has a waiting list which limits students’ ability to enroll, and many of the specialized courses (particularly Advanced Placement courses) our students need to learn at their level are not offered by COA. It leaves our special education students, from preschool through grades 12, without a virtual option and puts our special educators and service providers at greater risk. Our students (especially our junior high and high school students) can’t choose to socially distance in hallways and classrooms where that isn’t physically possible."
The Chandler Education Association urged the governing board to reconsider its decision.
CEA President Katie Nash, a teacher at Chandler High School, told Community Impact Newspaper on Jan. 14 that she was disappointed with the board's decision to return to in-person.
"I will say that teacher morale is at an all-time low," Nash said. "We need the support of the community. We are urging people to please wear their masks, wash their hands, stay home when possible, avoid large gatherings, and socially distance. We all need to work together to keep our community safe. Our community is hurting—it is torn up by the lack of leadership at the state level. Our hospitals are crowded and their staff are exhausted. Our school community has experienced a great deal of loss and suffering from this horrible virus. We will rebuild, but it will take all of us."