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County Issues Reopening Information for Schools

Dear Amphitheater Families and Employees:

The Amphitheater District received a letter today from Pima County regarding the opening of schools to in-person instruction.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry said in the letter that based on public health data, schools should not reopen in-person before Labor Day. This information already aligns with the Amphitheater District’s existing Reopening Plan, which was approved by the District’s Governing Board on July 14.

While the Governor’s Executive Order closing schools until Aug. 17 still stands, Gov. Doug Ducey said last week that the State Health Department would release metrics on Aug. 7 for local health agencies to use to determine the opening of school to in-person instruction. Pima County has decided to proceed with analyzing local and timely COVID-19 metrics now rather than waiting for statewide metrics.

Mr. Huckleberry’s letter, which he issued after meeting with local school superintendents and county health officials may be viewed at this web link.  One pertinent excerpt provides as follows:

Where We Stand Today Regarding Infection, Hospitalization and Death Statistics for Resumptions, Including Opening Schools

Could local public health data support the reopening of schools on August 17, 2020 for in-person learning? The short answer is, no. The explanation in the facts. They are:

  • We are now near the end of July and local County COVID-19 infections are at the highest daily amounts since the pandemic began.
  • Pima County's total monthly infections in March were 153, in April 1,024, in May 1,101, in June 5,622 and so far for July through the 27th, they are 6,772.
  • Countywide transmission rates remain above 11 percent, with a World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation that rates be below 5 percent prior to opening.
  • Masks were only recently mandated at the County level on June 19, 2020 and it will take six weeks to see if this mitigation strategy is working.
  • Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are at record levels and it was only last week the ICU bed capacity was nearly exceeded and critical patients were transferred to other hospitals in the State.
  • Widespread testing is only now becoming available throughout the community.
  • Despite the availability of widespread testing, obtaining test results in a timely manner to allow effective contact tracing does not exist at this time in our communities.

For all of the above reasons, schools should not open on August 17, 2020 for traditional face-to-face, in-person instruction.

The present data certainly does not yet provide a positive, sustainable trend. Hence, it is the professional opinion of [Pima County Health Department officials] that the earliest that traditional face-to-face in-person instruction can be anticipated to resume is after Labor Day (September 7, 2020) or later (e.g. October 5, 2020). 

The letter goes on to say that the County is not prohibiting schools from opening facilities for at-risk youth on a limited basis as outlined in the Governor’s most recent executive order. The letter also recommends shifting Fall 2020 sports to Spring 2021, but does allow for activities that can be safely conducted using masks and distancing to occur. Generally, though, it says schools should plan that a return to normal play should not be considered until after in-person school resumes.

In Amphitheater, we will stay with our current plan, as it is entirely consistent with this most recent guidance from Pima County Health and the Governor’s last order. Remote and online learning will still begin on August 10, and we will continue to plan for an opening of in-person school when our public health leaders find that the county health conditions support opening safely, just as the Governor ordered.

If you would like more information about Amphitheater’s educational program options, please go to www.amphi.com/LearningChoices.

We look forward to beginning the school year, even if it is not the way we all wish it could be. It will be different, and it will have its challenges. But at Amphitheater, we are ready.

Thank you,

Todd A. Jaeger
Superintendent