wuss board

Willcox Unified School District board members, from right, Gary Clement, Dwayne Owen, Bill Ryan, Guy Nolan and Mark Hopkins, voted Monday on a measure to approve a full schedule of in-person learning starting Sept. 21. Clement was the sole "no" vote on the board.

WILLCOX — The Willcox Unified School District board agreed it is time.

“I think we’re hurting kids if they don’t go back to school full time,” school board member Dwayne Owen said during Monday’s special meeting.

“Personally, I think things are moving slowly but in the right direction,” added school board president Mark Hopkins.

There was dissent during the 4-1 board vote to take kids off of the hybrid two-days per week instruction and move into the four days per week normal schedule next Monday, Sept. 21.

“I think we should have waited until the end of the quarter, just because I feel it would have been safer,” board member Gary Clement told the Herald/Review.

So far there haven’t been any cases reported, said District Superintendent Kevin Davis.

“As far as I know we haven’t had any cases of COVID and other illnesses are extremely low,” he said. “The Cochise County metrics are pretty low and we are in the green in all three areas and have been for the past two weeks, and I expect it to be that way on the next one.”

Hopkins added, “I think part of our caution up until now is that we wanted to have another couple of weeks to see if we had real issues, COVID-wise.

Board member Bill Ryan said that he liked how well the precautions on social distancing and mask-wearing were helping to minimize the risk of coronavirus infection during the first five weeks of school.

“I have heard from five different parents that I spoke to personally though, and all five had said that their concern is that when they’re at work and their child is at home with distance learning during the day, their children are not doing the stuff that they are supposed to be doing,” Ryan said.

“And it’s my understanding that even if we do go to four-days per week, parents still have an option to let the kids go only two days or work entirely from home,” Hopkins said.

Davis compiled a list of letters from teachers and staff during the past week and relayed that list to all of the board to study before the special session. Elementary school principal Valerie Simon said the feeling on her campus was still mixed over resuming the full schedule while middle school principal David Chaim didn’t waver from his opinion that his campus preferred waiting until the end of nine weeks in mid-October.

Although distance learning options will indeed still be available, the superintendent said that “ I think it would help us to minimize distance learning so teachers can concentrate more on in-person instruction and students would have in-person instruction for the majority of their school year.”

Clement still did not agree, leading to his vote. “I personally think another three weeks of waiting wouldn’t have been killing us, so I voted no,” he said.