CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - There's anger and confusion from parents after the Chandler Unified School District outlined their plan to return to in-person learning next week. The problem is that for those who want to stay virtual, there may not be an option to do that, at least not for a while.
Here's the issue: if families want to go back in-person next week, they'll have the chance. But the virtual option, which the district has called Chandler Online Academy, is full for many grades, and now there's a waitlist. So even with surging COVID-19 cases, Chandler families may have no choice but to go back in person and take the risk.
"There's no good option. There's no good option here," said Andrea Ramsey. Ramsey has two daughters in Chandler Unified School District, and because they're in several AP and Honors classes, the online curriculum through Chandler Online Academy (COA) would not be the same as their regular classes. "If our girls could just continue to Skype in and be part of the class, then that would be great that would be a great option. That's not the option that we have."
The issue was highlighted Tuesday when the district released a PowerPoint about returning to in-person class next week. At the end of the presentation, it said Chandler Online Academy remains a viable option. But several parents told Arizona's Family the waitlist for many grades online is full, and we confirmed with the district that depending on staffing and capacity, there may be a wait to get in, especially for grades 7-12.
"If I'm unwilling to take the risk of exposure, and COA is closed, or on a waitlist, then I have no other option but to look for another district or charter district to take my child to," CUSD parent Katey McPherson said, breaking down the situation some Chandler families are now facing.
According to both the state and county website, all Arizona counties are in the red zone and recommended to be in virtual learning, though the district said they aren't just basing their decision off those charts. Travis Rodgers has two kids in CUSD. He supports in-person learning but feels they're starting a little too early.
"The teachers in person are worried, but they're also ready to jump in, but they would like to get vaccinated is kind of the word I'm hearing down here in Chandler," Rodgers said.
Ramsey said teacher safety is one of her greatest concerns, in the middle of the highest surge of COVID cases we've ever had in Arizona. "It still puts the teachers and the staff in a terrible position because we are not paying attention to the metrics," she said.
The district told Arizona's Family they would try to accommodate people's needs and look at the waitlist on a case by case basis. We asked if somebody doesn't feel comfortable going in person and can't get into the online academy what they do right now, and the district said they just encourage them to put their name on the waitlist.