Gilbert Public Schools board considers triggers for return to hybrid or virtual learning

Gilbert Public Schools governing board
The Gilbert Public Schools governing board discuss a possible return to hybrid or virtual learning at a special meeting Oct. 30. Clockwise from left are Superintendent Shane McCord, Lori Wood, President Charles Santa Cruz, Reed Carr, Jill Humpherys and Sheila Uggetti. (Screen capture from Gilbert Public Schools)

The Gilbert Public Schools governing board discuss a possible return to hybrid or virtual learning at a special meeting Oct. 30. Clockwise from left are Superintendent Shane McCord, Lori Wood, President Charles Santa Cruz, Reed Carr, Jill Humpherys and Sheila Uggetti. (Screen capture from Gilbert Public Schools)

At a special meeting Oct. 30, the Gilbert Public Schools governing board studied the possibilities of returning to hybrid or virtual learning models if COVID-19 health benchmarks continue to rise but made no decisions.

Instead, the board voted to take up the matter at its next meeting, Nov. 4, after asking for more information from district officials.

Superintendent Shane McCord promised the board he would bring back a matrix from which decisions could be made Nov. 4.

Among the topics explored were: what benchmarks should be considered in changing learning modalities; whether those benchmarks should be different for larger secondary schools and smaller elementary schools; whether a change should be made at a district level or by school; how soon schools could change to the new modality after a decision is made; and how a return to in-person learning would be accomplished.

In his presentation to the board, McCord recommended using a percentage of students and staff with active COVID-19 cases as the benchmark and making changes in delivery model on a school-by-school basis. McCord argued that such a method was easy to calculate and easy for students, staff and families to understand.


McCord further suggested that if such a benchmark were reached on a campus, an additional layer of investigation be initiated by the district’s health services team in consultation with the Maricopa County Public Health Department. Such an investigation would look at family relationships in positive cases and links to programs, special events and circumstances.

McCord also proposed that a return to online learning be done on a school-by-school basis based upon a percentage of active cases on campus as determined by the governing board or the current level of transmission within district boundaries or the county. However, McCord acknowledged that at that point, the district might have to go back online entirely.

The district has had 126 confirmed cases of COVID-19: 106 from students and 20 from staff. Some of those cases have recovered, McCord said.

Based on current numbers, GPS does not have a campus that would be close to needing to move to a hybrid or virtual model, even if the board were to set the benchmark as low as 1% of the people on campus, McCord said.

The Nov. 4 meeting was set last spring for a Wednesday, rather than a regular Tuesday meeting, to avoid conflicting with the Nov. 3 election. It will be a work-study session with a brief board meeting to follow.
By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.