COVID classroom

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) -- School is back in session for Phoenix-area kids, but not everyone returned to the classroom following the winter break. With a rise in COVID-19 cases and other viruses, many schools are seeing increased absences.

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The Cartwright Elementary School District in Phoenix tells Arizona's Family 3,051 were absent on Monday, the majority due to COVID-19. Cartwright has 21 schools serving more than 15,000 students in pre-k through eighth grade. There were 2,319 students absent on Tuesday and 2,256 on Wednesday.

That compared with about 1,600 absences on both the first day of fall and the last day of school in December, said Veronica Sanchez, the district’s director of public relations. She said teacher absences were also up, but didn't have exact figures.

The district mandates the use of masks and provides rapid COVID-19 tests at a centralized location.

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Tempe Elementary School District says roughly 17% of its students were absent on Monday, which was the first day of classes in 2022. That's more than two days the district looked at in December when 10% of the kids were out.

The Madison School District in Phoenix says absences doubled on every campus for the first day back, compared to numbers in early December.

As for staff calling out, the Kyrene School District saw an increase in staff absences on Tuesday, but a spokesperson said, "What we are experiencing today is manageable.

The Phoenix Union High School District also saw a slight uptick in absences the first two days of the semester.

Paradise Valley Schools tells Arizona's Family 240 staff members called out Tuesday, that's slightly higher than what they saw the week before the winter break.

In the Peoria Unified School District, staff absences are a little higher than average to start the year. Almost 200 staff members called out Monday.

As for kids, what happens if they get COVID-19 and have to stay at home to isolate?

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Plans to handle quarantine time vary by district. Danielle Airey with Peoria Unified says students have to stay home for 10 days after testing positive. But if they're asymptomatic, what is being done so they aren't missing out on two weeks of classes?

"The individual teacher is working with those students to provide support at home," Airey said. "In many cases, that might be work that is sent home or some direction or instruction or worksheets or things that they're provided while they're home. And, of course, depending on how they feel. And then in some cases, particularly at the high school and some classes, there may be access to some online learning modules or to summon recorded lessons."

Masks are recommended but not required in Peoria Unified. Gilbert Public Schools, Scottsdale Unified, and Mesa Public Schools also have similar mask guidance.

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Masks are required in some Valley districts, including Kyrene, Phoenix Union High School, and Paradise Valley Schools.

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Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday took what he called “preemptive action” to keep school public schools open and give students access to in-person instruction despite rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Arizona and nationwide. The new program would give private school vouchers to parents of students whose schools close or move to remote learning.

Arizona has the fourth-highest COVID-19 death rate among U.S. states, with 334 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Editor's note: The number of students in the Cartwright School District has been updated to reflect the correct student population.

Copyright 2021 Gray Media Group, Inc.


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