Some districts are exempt because if they were to allow some on-site services, a majority of the students would qualify, making it an unsafe environment during the pandemic.
TOLLESON, Ariz. – A majority of schools in Arizona are doing virtual learning while offering some on-site services as required by the governor’s executive order.
In Maricopa County, a few districts are not providing any on-site services, though, after receiving a waiver from the Department of Education, exempting them from the order.
Superintendents in Tolleson say the COVID-19 rates are just too high to have kids on campus in any capacity, and that if they did open their doors to just certain students who meet special state requirements to be on campus, 85% of kids would qualify in these districts.
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There are no students at Tolleson Elementary School District or Tolleson Union High School District learning inside the walls of the schools. The two districts are some of the few schools in Arizona to be allowed to not provide on-site services.
“It was really a very simple decision,” said Nora Gutierrez, Superintendent of Tolleson Union High School District, adding that COVID-19 rates in Tolleson are just too high.
“Their safety and their wellness, that is on the forefront of the decisions that we make,” Gutierrez said.
The elementary district superintendent said the same.
“We had more than twice the number of cases per 100 thousand than the county itself,” said Dr. Lupita Hightower, Superintendent of Tolleson Elementary School District.
She said if they offered on-site services, they’d basically be reopening school entirely because of the demographics of the area.
“We could potentially have 2,500 students qualifying to be on-site and we have four schools. So, that would be extremely difficult,” Hightower explained.
Tuesday, Aug. 18, lines were off and on outside Union High School as students went to get school-provided laptops repaired, and some parents said it’s been frustrating having their kids learning virtually.
“I’ve been back and forth with computer issues. I just wish there was something to help these kids to get back to learning inside because this virtual is not working so much,” said Nikki, a parent.
She said it’s important she’s been able to be at home with her two kids. For others whose parents work, the district formed an agreement with the Boys and Girls Club to cover the majority of the cost.
“We are continuing to provide all of the support we provide during the regular school year, they just look differently,” Hightower said.
Tolleson Union High School District is providing breakfast and lunch to make sure every child is still fed. They want to take that burden off families.
Parents can also pick up a week’s worth of food every Tuesday night while the waiver remains in effect.