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Group protests digital reopening of schools

August 1, 2020 GMT

When protesters gathered in front of the Lake Havasu Unified School District offices Friday, Arizona Sen. Sonny Borrelli greeted them. The first day of school can be a jarring transition for some students, but now parents will be entering unfamiliar new territory as Havasu begins the school year with an online-only curriculum. By about 10 a.m. Friday, a handful of parents were gathered outside the school district offices to protest the opening of online-only education next week.

“I came to answer parents’ questions,” Borrelli said. “I saw the (protest) announced on social media, and came out. I wanted to listen to their frustrations. People don’t always know how the system works, and there’s a lot of confusion and sometimes mixed messages from the school district.”

Governor Ducey has said he will leave it up to the local school districts to decide when to reopen, using metrics provided by the state. The data will be made available to school districts by Aug. 7, according to the governor’s office.

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According to Borrelli, parents might not always be well-informed enough to know what questions to ask of the school board, and sometimes the answers can be misunderstood. And with this year’s new transition to the digital classroom, some parents may be justifiably concerned.

“Some parents don’t want their children to be in online classes,” Borrelli said. “The priority should be children and parents first. It’s frustrating for them when some of the school board members come out with different information and different explanations.”

Borrelli said he believes schools should be able to physically reopen if the school district can assure students’ safety.

“If the schools can follow the CDC guidelines, they should be able to open,” Borrelli said. “Medical professionals say kids are the least vulnerable to the virus. Earlier this year the concern was that they could catch (the coronavirus) at school and bring it home, where family members could get sick. Now they’ve been out during the summer for parks and recreation and other activities, and nothing’s happened.”

The Lake Havasu Unified School District is scheduled to open its online classrooms and curriculum for students on Monday. Officials have yet to determine when, or if, in-classroom learning will resume.