The recent decline in new coronavirus cases in La Paz County will affect the county and Parker in more ways than one. La Paz is one of only four counties in the state to meet all the benchmarks set by the Arizona Department of Health Services for moderate to minimal risk of transmitting the virus.
This means some businesses can reopen on a limited basis, and it means the Parker Unified School District can go ahead and partially reopen for in-person classes on Sept. 8, as planned.
Public schools in the state have been closed to in-person learning since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. As of Aug. 29 there have been over 201,000 cases statewide with 5,000 deaths. La Paz County has seen 498 cases, but only a few of these have been in the month of August. There have been 15 deaths.
Gov. Doug Ducey ordered ADHS to create the benchmarks and other guidelines for reopening schools and businesses as part of an executive order dated July 23. The ADHS released their benchmarks and guidelines Aug. 6. Part of the Governor’s order was that local schools should decide when and how they would reopen, and the benchmarks and guidelines were to serve to help them make that decision.
For moderate to minimal risk of transmitting the coronavirus, the ADHS set the following benchmarks. All three benchmarks must be met for schools and businesses to reopen:
- A county must see a two-week decline in the number or cases or a two-week period of less than 100 cases per 100,000 population within the county.
- There must be two weeks of where testing within the county shows a positivity rate of 7 percent or less.
- There must a two-week period with less than 10 percent of the hospital visits being related to the coronavirus.
La Paz County is one of just four of Arizona’s 15 counties to meet all three benchmarks. The others are Apache, Greenlee, and Yavapai.
When the benchmarks were first announced Aug. 6, none of Arizona’s counties could meet the Aug. 17 date for restarting in person classes set by Gov. Ducey.
Parker Unified School District Superintendent Brad Sale said the district schools will go to hybrid learning starting Sept. 7.
“This allows us to get kids back into school,” Sale said.
For grades 6 through 12, students with last names that end with A through L will attend in-person classes on Mondays and Tuesdays. Students with last names ending M through Z will attend in-person classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays. They will alternate of Fridays. Students will attend two days of classes one week and then three days of classes the following week as long as hybrid learning is taking place.
On the days when students aren’t at the school for classes, they must attend classes via distance learning.
For students from Kindergarten through 5th Grade, they will attend classes through Google Classroom.
School hours will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. There will still be early-release Fridays, Sale said. At this time, Sale said they would not need to modify school hours due to the busses because there would not be so many students on the busses that they would not be able to follow social distancing guidelines.
Social distancing, hand-sanitizing and face mask requirements will be enforced when students return to school, Sale said.
Sale said he was pleased to see the Colorado River Indian Tribes have eased up on some of their coronavirus-related restrictions on the reservation. He noted Le Pera Elementary School, which is located south of Poston, is on reservation land.
The best part of all this, Sale said, would be the teachers and students returning to hands-on learning and building the sorts to relationships that are essential to education and success in life.
“We’re kind of excited to get the kids back in school so we can work with them,” Sale said. “We’re ready and rarin’ to go!”
For any questions or more information, parents should call the office of their children’s school or call the District Office at 928-669-9244.