After blistering public comments, Gilbert Public Schools board votes to start spring semester in hybrid learning

Gilbert Public Schools
Gilbert Public Schools campuses will start the spring semester in hybrid learning. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Gilbert Public Schools campuses will start the spring semester in hybrid learning. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Gilbert Public Schools will start the spring semester in a hybrid learning mode for one week and use data collected that week to make decisions on which, If any, schools should remain in hybrid learning.

That was the compromise decision of the district governing board Dec. 15, passed on a 3-2 vote with Reed Carr, Lori Wood and Charles Santa Cruz voting for and Sheila Uggetti and Jill Humphreys against. The spring semester starts Jan. 5.

Humphreys had offered an original motion to be in hybrid for two weeks, with Carr offering a substitute motion to start the semester with in-person learning. After discussion seeking a consensus position, Carr amended his motion to be in hybrid for a week to collect data on where cases on campuses stand.

The data collected will then be measured against the metrics the board set at its Nov. 4 meeting: if 2% of an elementary school campus population, including students and staff, has active cases, it will move to hybrid learning for two weeks. A similar move would be made at 1.5% for middle schools and 1% for high schools.

The move came after a public comment period with more than 20 speakers urging the board to keep schools open to in-person learning. A few of the speakers angrily accused the board of hypocrisy, not caring for students, personally causing depression and anxiety among children, hiding behind arbitrary metrics and more. One said there is no pandemic anymore, just a “casedemic.”


Carr and Santa Cruz, though voting with the majority, said some of the public comments were offensive. Carr’s father died Dec. 12 from COVID-19 despite no co-morbidities, and he strongly pushed back against the notion the coronavirus poses little risk.

However, he said he believed community behavior outside school has been more dangerous than what happens in school, so he voted in support of keeping schools open to in-person instruction.

Santa Cruz, the board’s president, said he supported the idea of two weeks in hybrid but that he heard the community’s desire to keep schools open. He, too, decried some of the public’s comments.

“But that’s what we signed up for, I suppose,” he said.

Humphreys said she, too, believes being in school is best for students, but that the challenge was balancing those needs with safety during the pandemic. She said she hoped two weeks in hybrid would help make certain students and staff are around to enjoy in-person opportunities once the pandemic subsides.

Public comment did include one supporter for starting in hybrid learning or even remote learning on the secondary level. Gilbert Education Association President Amber Franco said the union’s membership supported such a move, though it meant much more work for the teachers.

GPS will start the spring semester in a hybrid learning mode for one week and use data collected that week to make decisions on which, If any, schools should remain in hybrid learning.

That was the compromise decision of the district governing board Dec. 15, passed on a 3-2 vote with Carr, Wood and Santa Cruz voting for and Uggetti and Humphreys against.

Humphreys had offered an original motion to be in hybrid for two weeks, with Carr offering a substitute motion to start the semester with in-person learning. After discussion seeking a consensus position, Carr amended his motion to be in hybrid for a week to collect data on where cases on campuses stand.
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.


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