In the second full week of the school year, Hamilton High School reported having more than 30 active cases of COVID-19 as the delta variant makes its way through the state causing cases to rise among both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

Chandler USD updates its COVID-19 dashboard weekly and updated it for the first time this school year Aug. 3. Hamilton High School had the highest active case count with 32, followed by Chandler High School with 10 cases and Basha High School with five cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July released guidance that all people—regardless of vaccination status—should resume wearing masks in crowded, indoor situations. The CDC also recommended K-12 schools use masks for in-person instruction. Gov. Doug Ducey said Arizona law prohibiting mask mandates remains in place despite the new guidance from the CDC.

CUSD officials sent out a letter to families Aug. 3 asking for help in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

"Although we cannot mandate mask wearing, students and staff are strongly encouraged to use face coverings to help prevent the spread at school," read the letter.

The district also made adjustments to its mitigation strategies after the first two weeks of school. According to the letter, the district is:

  • Reinforcing social distancing among students and staff—3 feet or more where feasible;

  • enforcing directional flow of students;

  • recommending that large group gatherings be held outdoors if unable to meet social distancing of 3 feet or more;

  • reviewing capacity for athletic events;

  • requiring mitigation strategies for all field trips;

  • limiting volunteer access; and

  • increasing mitigation strategies applied to schools as confirmed cases meet the following thresholds: 2% for elementary, 1.5% for junior high and 1% for high schools.

As of Aug. 3 data, Hamilton High School is at 0.75% of active cases compared to school population—just under the 1% threshold for increased mitigation.

Katie Nash, a teacher at Chandler High School and head of the Chandler Education Association, said the state's law prohibiting mask mandates is "frustrating."

"Our hands are just tied," Nash said. "It's incredibly frustrating that we are in this position."

Nash said that so far into the school year, mask usage has been limited by students and staff—even after the CDC's updated guidance. She said she hopes the updated district dashboard numbers spur more mask usage across the district.

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman released a statement Aug. 2 urging Ducey to "listen to public health experts and educators" to keep schools "safe for in-person learning."

"It is unconscionable that our public schools have been put in this position by the governor and Republican-led Legislature," Hoffman said in a statement. "The law signed by Governor Ducey in June was reckless and short-sighted—following public health guidance should not be political. I want kids in their classrooms because that is where the best learning happens—and until we are fully on the other side of this pandemic, we must take every necessary precaution to protect student health and safety in those classrooms and ensure minimal disruption to learning. We have serious work ahead of us to help students recover from the last two disrupted school years, and we don’t have time for political games."

Phoenix Union High School District in Phoenix announced July 30 that it would require masks for students and staff in the 2021-22 school year to follow the CDC's guidance. Phoenix Elementary School District voted Aug. 1 to also require masks indoors.