PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) -- On Thursday, most Arizona counties met the benchmarks to start opening schools with hybrid instruction. According to a news release from the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS,) Maricopa and Pima Counties have joined Apache, Cochise, Coconino, Navajo, Pinal and Yavapai in meeting those benchmarks.
The Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) said that Maricopa and Pima counties have now met the benchmarks for starting to reopen schools.
Hybrid instruction describes a mix of in-person instruction and virtual learning, and limits the number of students on campuses. Hybrid learning plans can look different for each district.
Some districts are sticking with plans to welcome all students for in-person instruction despite possible consequences.
Cave Creek Unified School District is skipping hybrid and welcoming students back to school next week. Superintendent Debbi Burdick says the decision boiled down to keeping kids from falling behind. "This year is about making up from last year and moving beyond that," says Burdick.
Burick says the district considered hybrid models, but officials were concerned students would not get the instruction they need to stay on track. On top of that, Burdick says the metrics in their community were moving in the right direction.
But the district cannot guarantee students will be socially distanced. "Our space is confined to a classroom space, but that is why we are requiring masks," says Burdick. "And if a classroom would have a [COVID-19] case, we would take that classroom back to distance learning for their quarantine period."
Other Arizona school districts have opted for in-person instruction before meeting benchmarks set by state education and public health officials. When J.O. Combs Unified School District decided to conduct instruction in classrooms, classes had to immediately be cancelled when too many teachers called out.
Two schools in Tucson had to temporarily shut down when students and employees tested positive for COVID-19. In Queen Creek, some teachers resigned over coronavirus concerns.
Former high school chemistry teacher, Jacob Frantz, quit his job at Queen Creek Unified School District, he says, because the science did not say it was safe to return to class. "I 100% believe I made the right decision," says Frantz.
The president of the Queen Creek Teachers Association called it quits Friday, just three days before the first day of in-person learning.
Frantz believes many teachers would have stayed if the district had waited to meet the benchmarks and then open with hybrid learning. "People on campus would feel safer and it would be more functional," says Frantz.
Burdick added that Cave Creek Unified will offer online lessons for families not ready to return. When asked if teachers or staff have quit since the district reaffirmed its decision to open next week, Burdick said she had received one resignation.
She also said that losing teachers to COVID-19 illness is a concern. "That would be the worst-case scenario in any school district, in any school community," says Burdick.