Debate at the Willcox School Board meeting last week provided a good insight on whether kids should return to in-person instruction or if it’s too soon to risk a resurgence of the coronavirus.
Superintendent Kevin Davis told his board that their hybrid school plan for only two in-person instruction days per week should change. The system is creating stress for students and teachers, Davis said, and there is concern that kids aren’t being productive on their off days.
One parent at the meeting said it was too soon for students to return, while a middle-school teacher voiced concern that online instruction wasn’t working, with kids failing to do their homework.
Three principals at the meeting said parents they surveyed are “50-50” on whether kids should get back to classrooms.
Meanwhile, in-person instruction resumed at the St. David Unified School District campus last month. As with school districts all over the state, teachers, students, parents and visitors are required to wear masks. Before heading to classrooms, students stop at a table where paraprofessionals take temperatures, followed by a squirt of hand sanitizer.
Last week at a special meeting of the Douglas governing board, members approved resuming practice for football, cross country, spirit line and golf. School administrators are cautioning that all athletes must be cleared through the DHS athletics office before they can participate with their respective teams. They are being required to wear some kind of facial covering while maintaining social distancing.
As of Sunday, Cochise County had 37 active cases of coronavirus, 18 of which where in the Douglas area, six to 10 in the Sierra Vista area, and one to five in the Benson area.
We appreciate and understand the fear of a resurgence of this virus. Pima County cases of the coronavirus started increasing in late August, roughly two weeks after the University of Arizona community returned, prompting that county’s chief medical officer to issue a warning.
Nearly 600 Pima County cases of the coronavirus were added to the Arizona Department of Health Services dashboard for the week that ended Sept. 5, representing a 16 percent increase from the week prior, the highest increase since the middle of June, data shows.
But Cochise County isn’t Pima County. Our population of just less than 130,000 and our size — 6,219 square miles — assures a measure of “social distancing.” While Cochise County has about 21 people per square mile, Pima County has more than 110.
In a perfect world, a vaccine for the coronavirus would be available in just a few weeks and school officials could wait out the pandemic. Parents and teachers could return to school with confidence that they were safe from getting sick.
Unfortunately, a vaccine is still months away and its mass production will add more time before it’s universally available, especially in rural areas.
Schools ended the 2019-2020 academic year abruptly in March and are now contemplating at least another month before bringing students back for full-time, classroom instruction.
We think it’s time school officials consider resuming instruction now, or making plans to extend the school year.
Our kids’ education can’t wait.