CHANDLER/GILBERT, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- Thousands of students are heading back to the classroom this week despite record breaking COVID-19 cases in our state. But many parents and teachers are concerned in-person learning will make the crisis in our state worse.
Arizona Department of Health Services reported over 200,000 cases of COVID-19 for the entire month of December.
Now, many East Valley teachers plan to make their voices heard. As many as 600 educators in the Chandler Unified School District and Gilbert Public Schools might call out sick on Tuesday.
"We know there has been a surge after Thanksgiving. It will be a double surge after Christmas and New Year," said Chandler parent Andrea Rumsey. "We know there are families in Chandler hosting big parties, gathering together, and they are getting ready to bring that back to our teachers."
Rumsey has two teenagers in Chandler Unified School District. She says there is looming uncertainty about how the school week will shake out. Rumsey would like to see the district go fully online for at least four weeks.
"It is a heartbreaking time and it is infuriating to think about Chandler Unified School Board being unwilling to follow the science to do the right thing in keeping families safe," said Rumsey.
With cases skyrocketing and no new mitigation efforts in the state, some health experts say in-person learning just isn't safe.
Hoffman said she wants to make sure the state is doing everything possible to help healthcare workers and keep teachers and students safe.
"The problem is, we didn't do anything about it and things got worse. Now, they're at the point where it's really not safe to open schools or anything," Dr. Shad Marvasti with the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix.
On Saturday, Arizona Superintendent Kathy Hoffman called on Gov. Ducey to halt in-person learning for at least two weeks. The Governor responded, saying he won't be considering her request.
Chandler PE teacher Brian Cocking agrees that kids need to be in the classroom.
"I am not nervous about going back to work. I feel strongly that that is where our kids need to be, said Cocking.
Gilbert is offering the option of hybrid learning for the first week. District officials say they are preparing to bring in substitute teachers. Meantime, Chandler is offering a virtual option for the first two weeks. Arizona's Family reached out to Chandler Unified School District but did not hear back at this time.
Both districts have board meetings set for Monday evening.