Arizona students head back to school without mask mandates

It's a more relaxed atmosphere when it comes to COVID-19 protocols at Phoenix-area schools but there are still some restrictions.
Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 5:56 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Eighth-grade math teacher Ramarao Cheepurupalli noticed a difference when kids showed up for class Monday at Morris K. Udall Middle School in Phoenix.

No mandatory masks. No learning from home. For the first time in three years, the school year is starting without all the COVID chaos. “They need the face to face interaction, somebody to guide you,” said Cheepurupalli. “This is the safest place for some of them.”

Principal Garry Glay said the mood on campus was cheerful and upbeat, a clear sign everyone is not obsessing about COVID-19 and all the challenges the pandemic created. “This is the first time in a long time it feels like a sense of normalcy,” said Glay. “We had parents walking children to school this morning, dropping them at the front gate and giving big hugs. That is stuff I haven’t seen in 3 years, and thats normal and great.”

Despite the more relaxed atmosphere, COVID hasn’t gone away, prompting schools across the state to keep some precautions in place. The Isaac School District is one of several districts that strongly recommends students wear masks. They’ve got sanitizer in every classroom and are trying to stagger lunches to avoid big clusters of kids.

Cheepurupalli is hopeful students can focus more on their school work this year and less on COVID. “Definitely going to be a good year,” said Cheepurupalli.

Most school districts are following CDC guidelines when it comes to COVID-19. If students test positive, they are asked to stay home for five days until they test negative and no longer have symptoms.