Higley USD will wait on in-person return until Oct. 12 'or earlier'

Higley USD
The Higley USD governing board voted Aug. 8 not to return to in-person instruction until Oct. 12 or earlier. (Courtesy Higley USD)

The Higley USD governing board voted Aug. 8 not to return to in-person instruction until Oct. 12 or earlier. (Courtesy Higley USD)

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 regarding the coronavirus pandemic that the Arizona Department of Health Services and Arizona Department of Education released Aug. 6. A return would come with a one-week notice, according to the resolution.

The decision came on a 3-2 vote with board members Kristina Reese and Jill Wilson dissenting.

“Shame on us for putting the education of our kids at the bottom of our priorities,” Reese said. “We would rather go to our gyms, rivers, bars, amusement parks and everything else before schools open. It’s backwards.”

“My stance has always been kids first," Wilson said. "It will never change. This is an impossible decision.”


Board President Amy Kaylor said she is “emotionally fragile” from what the board and district has been through in the past week. She thanked everyone from community to staff for their work in the past week, but pointedly said she would not thank Gov. Doug Ducey for leaving decisions in their lap.

Board Member Scott Glover said everyone wants to return as soon as possible and urged the community to engage in all the practices that keep people healthy.

Meanwhile, Board Member Greg Wojtovich said he would want history to judge him by his decision on this matter.

The decision aligned with the recommendation of Superintendent Mike Thomason, who presented the state benchmarks to the board.

Thomason’s presentation showed the county meets one of three standards, that of two straight weeks of declining cases per 100,000 population. It also could be one week away from meeting declining hospitalizations for two weeks, as it did last week but not the week before.

However, Thomason noted that percent positivity on testing remains far above the 7% standard the state set for a return to some in-person learning. That was for hybrid models, but Higley has not put a hybrid model in place.

At the beginning of the meeting, Thomason read 26 emails or letters the district received about the decision, nearly all urging a return to in-person school. Two urged waiting, but one of those included a change.org petition to wait. However, that letter did include many questions about staying in remote learning that remained unanswered. A few others spoke on specific aspects of the questions.

The board also reviewed on first read a policy requiring face masks in schools and the state of where the district’s mitigation plan is. Ducey’s executive order require those elements.

The district also reviewed for the board the differences between remote learning—done on a temporary basis in substitution for in-person learning—and online learning, meant to stay in place but with students able to switch to in-person at certain dates if online learning is not working for the student.
By Tom Blodgett
Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent 30 years in journalism in Arizona and is the editor of the Gilbert edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he now serves as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.


MOST RECENT

Bod Squad opens as health and beauty salon in Gilbert

Bod Squad offers non-invasive body contouring through ultrasonic cavitation liposuction or radio frequency skin tightening.

Gilbert Town Council will consider forming a community relations committee. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)
Gilbert may form committee to address racial issues and more popular area news

Read popular news from the past week from Gilbert and Chandler.

State 48 Tap House will open a SanTan Village location

This location will be the business's sixth in the Valley.

One in five children and adults have a learning disability, according to statistics from the National Center for Learning Disabilities. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Q&A: National Center for Learning Disabilities expert discusses challenges of special education, remote learning during pandemic

The NCLD's director of policy and advocacy spoke about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on special education students and their development in and out of the classroom.

Gilbert Town Council
Gilbert Town Council considers community relations committee as protests continue

Gilbert Town Council is considering forming a community relations committee that could address racial and other issues in town.

Nikki Stratton, Scott Anderson, Gilbert Town Council
USS Arizona survivor's granddaughter asks Gilbert to sponsor namesake submarine

Nikki Stratton, granddaughter of the USS Arizona survivor Donald Stratton, also presented the town at its Sept. 15 council meeting with a piece of the battleship as a gift that she said would bind her, the town and the submarine together as family.

Here is what you need to know today about coronavirus in Gilbert. (Community Impact Newspaper)
Chandler, Gilbert COVID-19 cases rise and more local news

Read the latest news from Gilbert and Chandler.

judge's gavel
Judge rules Laurin Hendrix can join Gilbert Town Council on Nov. 3

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Daniel Kiley also ruled the votes that have taken place since Laurin Hendrix defeated Bill Spence in the August election will not be voided.

Chandler USD has been open to students receiving on-site support since August, but on Sept. 14, hundreds of students in kindergarten and first and second grades will take their places at their desks and in their brick-and-mortar schools for the first time since March. (Community Impact staff)
Chandler USD students will return to campuses next week. Here are the health and safety precautions the district is taking.

Chandler USD has been open to students receiving on-site support since August, but on Sept. 14, hundreds of students in kindergarten and first and second grades will take their places at their desks and in their brick-and-mortar schools for the first time since March.