TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- There have been protests with parents and teachers, all with strong opinions about whether kids should be back in the classroom or learning online. Now, the heated debate is front and center along I-10, near Elliot Road in Tempe.

Earlier this week, someone put up a digital billboard that said, "Tempe Union High School District is Failing our kids - Open our Schools." The sign is about Tempe Union currently providing only virtual education. Jon Ladd is one of many parents who have been trying to convince district officials to offer in-person learning as an option again, just like schools in Gilbert, Chandler, and Mesa. Just days after the billboard went up, the district announced that kids would be back in the classroom next month.

"It was kind of a shock factor," said Ladd. "It really feels like it had some effect. Maybe it's a coincidence, maybe it would have happened anyway, but it feels to me like it had some effect on it."

Ladd is convinced that students can return to the classroom safely and is pleased by the district's decision to invite students back on March 15 while also offering families an online option. Arizona's Family reached out to Tempe Union officials and asked if the billboard played a role in the school board decision. TUHSD sent this statement:

"The billboard did not have any impact or influence on our decision-making process. While we tremendously value the input from our stakeholders, including parents, we follow the public health metrics and the advice of our medical experts when it comes to these kinds of decisions. In fact, we discussed later Wednesday evening a plan for returning to in-person instruction after spring break (March 15) and released information to our families the following day regarding that date."

"The District has been following the public health metrics that are issued weekly by the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. As you know, metrics have been rising for the past few months since before the holidays, at certain points even making the state a #1 hotspot world-wide. At this point, we do believe that we will be able to bring students back safely, most likely four days a week, after spring break. Bringing students back is what we have been working on and planning for throughout the pandemic. We certainly value input from our families, parents, and other stakeholders. Ultimately, this billboard seems to seek to be a divisive distraction. We remain 100% focused on getting our students back to school safely."

Parent Jennifer Pisano doesn't care what led to the school board decision; she's just tired of all the schedule changes her son has had to go through.

"I think that the district has done the best they can given the circumstances," said Pisano. "But the frustration level of - let's go on campus - let's go online - let's go hybrid - it's been awful."

Jason Barry is best known for his Dirty Dining Report which airs Fridays at 6:30 p.m. on CBS 5.  He is also the storyteller behind CBS 5's Pay It Forward which airs every Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
 
 

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