An increase in COVID-19 cases in the county and state over the last two weeks may lead to classroom closures at a second West Valley high school district.
At an Oct. 29 press conference, Gov. Doug Ducey noted virus cases are on the rise around the country.
“We did anticipate the rise in cases. We did say we’re going to stay vigilant and were not going to let our guard down,” Ducey said.
And he urged Arizona to brace for worse: “We know there is a storm ahead of us,” Ducey said.
The rising numbers of COVID-19 cases already are impacting West Valley schools.
The Tolleson Union High School District canceled football and volleyball seasons Oct. 30. The TUHSD school board voted Oct. 7 to keep classrooms closed through the fall semester.
This week, another district is considering going back to online learning.
The Agua Fria Union High School District governing board votes at its Wednesday, Nov. 4, meeting to “Approve the return to fully virtual (online) learning starting Nov. 9 through the end of the second quarter Dec. 18.”
At least one school in the district, Millennium High School, has had multiple cases of COVID-19, with letters sent to parents on each occasion.
Agua Fria’s COVID-19 dashboard, updated every Friday, lists six cases at Canyon View, four at Millennium, three at Desert Edge and one at Verrado, with a total of 11 students and four staff with COVID-19.
And football programs at Millennium and Verrado high schools are on hold for two weeks due to a positive COVID-19 case.
The two teams played at Verrado in Buckeye Oct. 16. Both teams canceled games the following two weeks.
At the 5:30 p.m. meeting at the district office at 1481 N. Eliseo Felix Jr. Way, Avondale, the Agua Fria board also will “review third quarter curriculum delivery recommendations from the district administration.”
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At Litchfield Elementary School District, although younger students returned to school five days per week, the district decided Oct. 30 to delay a full reopening of middle school (sixth through eighth grade) classrooms.
According to the Litchfield Elementary district website, “The recently updated health benchmarks from Maricopa County Department of Health indicate our numbers are moving in the wrong direction. Two of the three measurable categories are now in the ‘moderate risk’ (yellow) range and one is in the ‘substantial risk’ (red) range.
“Due to this concerning spike in data, our middle schools are not going to return to In-Person Learning on Monday, Nov. 2.”
Grades six through eight at Litchfield Elementary district will continue in the hybrid learning model, with students in classrooms two days per week.
“Although our schools currently have zero to a low number of active COVID cases, we are seeing numbers spike in our community,” according to the Litchfield district post.
“If our metrics are within a red range in Maricopa County Department of Health’s Nov. 5 data, then we will transition all students to Distance Learning, effective Monday, Nov. 9.”
That would mean closing classrooms. But, the post noted, “If our metrics are within yellow and/or green ranges in Maricopa County Department of Health’s Nov. 5 data, then schools will continue in their current learning models.”
Other West Valley districts are closely following data provided by the county and state for guidance.
According to a TUHSD statement on the sports season cancellations, “This week’s benchmarks, reported by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and used in the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) Return-to-Activity Guidelines, reached the elevated levels of 10.74% positivity rate and 110.81 cases per 100k people, far beyond the established 5% positivity rate and less than 75 cases per 100,000 people.”
“AIA Guidelines recommend that when ADHS changes the level of spread for a community, the schools in that community should limit athletic participation to those activities that are permitted for the current level of spread. ...
“This is not the outcome that we wanted, but unfortunately, it is the decision that has to be made in order to ensure the safety and health of our student athletes, coaches and athletic personnel,” the TUHSD statement concluded. The district has nine high schools in Avondale, Glendale, Phoenix and Tolleson.