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A few Arizona districts moving to start in-person learning

August 12, 2020 GMT

PHOENIX (AP) — At few Arizona school districts are moving to begin in-person learning next Monday over the objections of some teachers, a decision applauded by some parents and students.

The board of the Queen Creek Unified School District outside Phoenix voted Tuesday to resume in-person learning and the J.O. Combs Unified School District in nearby San Tan Valley voted Monday to begin offering in-person instruction.

Both districts said they would continue to provide online learning.

The Queen Creek district said in a statement that most parents wanted choices that included some form of in-person instruction. Educators had asked the school board to stick with education online until Maricopa County met public health benchmarks included in voluntary guidelines issued by the state last week.

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.Jacob Frantz, president of the Queen Creek Education Association, said several teachers have resigned. “It’s the beginning of a crisis, Frantz told KNXV-TV. “They aren’t being listened to and their concerns aren’t being taken into account.”

The J.O. Combs board’s decision was based on both health data and “tremendous feedback from community members who expressed a strong need for their children to return to the classroom,” spokeswoman Kayla Fulmer told KTAR-FM.

“Because local districts were empowered to make these decisions using the voluntary recommendations, the Governing Board felt that it was necessary to return Aug. 17 for the safety and social and emotional needs of our students,” Fulmer said.

Combs Superintendent Gregory Wyman said he expects some families will choose to keep their students in virtual learning, reducing the number of students in school.

The district’s in-person learning plan includes daily temperature checks, mandatory face masks, social distancing in classrooms and enhanced sanitation practices.

David Nelson, president of the district’s teachers association, said he was “extremely disappointed” and concerned for students and his fellow teachers.

“We don’t know how this is going to affect them,” Nelson told KJZZ.

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Tucson Unified School District plans to reopen a limited number of schools on Monday to serve 2,500 vulnerable students, including with special education needs, refugees and those in foster care or homeless, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

Tucson Unified, like many other districts, has already begun the school year with remote learning.

The state has called for schools to offer some form of in-person supervision of children for families that want it starting Monday, tying the requirement to funding.

State health officials on Wednesday reported 706 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 148 additional deaths, increasing the totals to 189,443 cases and 4,347 deaths.

The record high number of deaths reported by Arizona in one day was 172 on July 30.

According to Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press, the 7-day rolling average of daily deaths in Arizona dropped over the past two week 82 deaths per day on July 28 to 51 deaths per day on Aug. 11.

Meanwhile, the 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in Arizona dropped over the past two weeks from 2,464 new cases per day on July 28 to 1,176 new cases per day on Aug. 11.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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Associated Press reporter Paul Davenport in Phoenix contributed.