PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A working group of educators and healthcare professionals says the state’s plan on when and how to open schools is unclear, and confusion may lead to a viral outbreak. The group spoke about their concerns Monday.

“There has to be a reflection that there's clarity between what's optional and what's not optional. What's a guideline, and what’s a recommendation,” said Dr. Dionne Mills, a hospitalist and gynecologist.

School safety group concerned confusion on benchmarks may lead to COVID-19 spread

Mills worries any wiggle room could lead to a COVID-19 spread among students and their families.

Del del Palacio, board member for the Tolleson Union High School District, said the state’s plan for opening schools ignores shortages in school staff and PPE.

“We're shorthanded, and we’re expected to do more with less,” said Palacio. “Then we're expected to have staff who are not experts in this area step up.”

Beth Lewis, a third-grade teacher and director of Save Our Schools Arizona, echoed concerns about slashed budgets. She said the state is acting “as if schools are islands separate from the communities they serve.”

The Arizona Department of Education answered some concerns today. A spokesperson cited an executive order and said masks “are required in schools for everybody, and schools should adopt formal polices clarifying that.” While districts were expected to offer in-person instruction as early as next Monday, the ADE spokesperson said “no school community in the state meets all three benchmarks to being a hybrid model.”

One major question remains: What are working parents supposed to do if they cannot stay home with their kids until benchmarks are met?

“Our kids are suffering, and parents and families are suffering,” says Brittny Smith, a parent with the Green Rally pushing for instructional options including in-person learning. “I think a lot of people are happy staying online and there’s an option for them, but a lot of people do not have the option to work online with their kids, so there has to be some sort of solution for them.”

Green Rally parents will rally outside the state capital Monday night at 6 p.m. demanding more support for families.


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