The Tolleson Union High School District governing board voted last week to extend online—learning only through spring break, meaning classrooms will remain empty until the third week of March. 

TUHSD schools in Avondale, Glendale and Tolleson include Copper Canyon, La Joya Community, Sierra Linda, Tolleson Union, University, West Point and Westview high schools

A letter was sent to students and families Dec. 9.

“We are extending online learning through spring break,” said Joseph Ortiz, a TUHSD spokesman. “We had originally indicated that we would be online through the winter break but we needed to communicate this information prior to students coming back for the second semester.”

According to the letter from Superintendent Nora Gutierrez, the governing board (Freddie Villalon, Devin Del Palacio, Steven Chapman, Dr. Kino Flores and Dr. Elda Luna-Najera) made the decision at its Dec. 8 meeting.

“Understand that our governing board and district administration do not take these decisions lightly. However, we feel that this is the best decision for the long-term health of our students and staff members,” Gutierrez wrote.

She noted that, though classrooms have been closed the entire academic year, 96 students and 108 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. “Of the 108 (staff) cases, 27 were reported in the last seven school days,” she said. 

“It is because of this troubling trend that the decision to extend online learning through spring break was made. 

“… The decision to stay with online learning through Spring Break was one that was made for the safety and well-being of our staff, students, and their families. We do not want our schools to become places where the COVID-19 virus can be spread further when we are so close to possibly turning the corner in our fight against this dreaded disease.”

The most recent Maricopa County Department of Public Health metrics show TUHSD communities in “substantial” risk for COVID-19, with more than 400 cases per 100,000 in the communities TUHSD serves.

TUHSD’s winter break begins Dec. 21. Online classes resume Jan. 4.