PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Gov. Doug Ducey's Office sent a letter on Wednesday to two Arizona school districts saying their COVID-19 quarantine policies went against state law. The letter said Peoria Unified School District and Tucson's Catalina Foothills School District require unvaccinated students who have been exposed to COVID-19 isolate for 10 days. The Governor's Office said that a different requirement for unvaccinated students goes against the law that says a school district or charter school can't require a student or teacher to get the COVID-19 vaccine or wear a face mask to participate in in-person learning.
The letter said the quarantine policies will lead to too many kids missing class and possibly kids not meeting mandatory attendance requirements. "Adding on these qualifiers and keeping kids out of their classrooms for 10 days at a time contrary to the law is not in anyone's best interest," Kaitlin Harrier, Ducey's education policy advisor, said in the letter. "Our kids deserve more time in the classroom, not less, especially given the challenges the pandemic has inflicted on their education already.
The Governor's Office said the policies must be overturned immediately. PUSD responded in a statement, which said it had received the letter but it would continue to follow the requirements from the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Maricopa County of Health Services concerning quarantine and isolation.
"We look forward to working with the governor's policy advisors and ADHS if there is a need to make changes to our current practices and to communicate any changes directly to our community," PUSD's Danielle Airey said in the statement.
The Cataline Foothills School District officials said they are following practices from ADHS. "We are perplexed by the letter, as it seems to indicate that the current ADHS guidance to K-12 schools is not in compliance with state law," the district said in a statement.
On Thursday evening, the lawyers representing the two districts gave Arizona's Family a copy of the letter they sent to the Governor's Office. They said PUSD and CFSD both don't require masks or vaccinations for in-person learning. The letter added the 10-day quarantine is in step with guidance from the CDC, ADHS and the Pima and Maricopa County Health departments. "On behalf of CFSD and PUSD, we would ask you to formally withdraw your July 14, 2021, letters. Our clients are not acting unlawfully," the letter said at the end.
A spokesman for the Governor's Office said the law bans discrimination based on vaccination status so since quarantine is a mitigation strategy, the use of any mitigation strategy should comply with the law.
READ: Our office today notified the superintendents of Peoria Unified School District and Catalina Foothills School District of their unlawful policy to require unvaccinated students who have a #COVID19 exposure to quarantine. @dougducey pic.twitter.com/iCuCuAoq53— The 9th Floor (@9thFloorAZ) July 14, 2021