COUNTY — Haven’t started back to school shopping yet? It’s probably for the best. County schools are shifting their return plans back to distance learning after speaking with the local health department.
Tombstone Unified School district announced on their Facebook page Monday morning that it is delaying the start of in-person learning until later in the fall. They will start the 2020-2021 school year with distance learning.
“Based on data provided by the Cochise County Health Department and the Arizona Department of Health Services we do not meet the recommended criteria for opening at this time,” the Facebook post reads.
The post also said students are able to check out tablets and laptops to complete their work.
Gabe Lavine, emergency management director for the Cochise County Office of Emergency Services, said the data being provided to districts is based on countywide data and not individual zip codes. That means an area like Bowie, which has had relatively few cases, is given the same recommendation as places like Douglas that have had 100s of cases.
He also told the Herald/Review via email that the data shared on the ADHS website and to the districts is from mid-July, when the case numbers hit a recent peak.
"The data depicted on the state website for school opening analysis is based on the last two weeks in July," Levine said. "This data lags approximately two weeks due to delays in receiving testing results, vetting, and analysis. Every two weeks the new dataset is being analyzed and assessed to determine if we are meeting the recommended benchmarks."
Sierra Vista Unified School District followed Tombstone, announcing a special board meeting at the request of Superintendent Eric Holmes. The board meeting will take place on Tuesday at 6 p.m. and will give the board an opportunity to discuss and take action on postponing in-person instruction until Sept. 14.
A letter sent from the district to parents, which was also provided to the Herald/Review by the district, states “after careful consideration and a thorough review of the data, the Administration of the Sierra Vista Unified School District #68 will ask the Governing Board to discuss and approve a delay of in-person academic instruction until September 14, 2020."
“The data released by the Arizona Department of Health and the Arizona Department of Education on August 6, 2020 indicate that Cochise County is currently in the 'substantial' category for community spread of the coronavirus. According to the recommendations, if the county is identified as having a community spread level that is substantial, only virtual learning can be offered to students.
“Based on the metrics developed by ADE and AZDHS, a county must have two consecutive weeks of minimal to moderate community spread levels in order to offer hybrid learning and two consecutive weeks of none to minimal community spread levels in order to offer in-person learning five days a week.”
Bisbee Unified School District also has a board meeting on Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. There are multiple agenda items regarding learning models for the school year. In-person learning by the district has already been delayed for six weeks.
Schools will be open for special education services, breakfast and lunch, as well as to provide a place if students need somewhere to go and complete their work.
Pick up a copy of Wednesday's Herald/Review for an updated version of this story.