PHOENIX - Despite the state’s surge of coronavirus cases, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Saturday rejected the state’s top education official’s call for him to order public schools to use only distance learning for the next two weeks unless they have waivers from health officials.
Health experts are predicting a surge of COVID-19 cases after the holidays and record travel across the US.
Superintendent Kathy Hoffman tweeted on Saturday, Jan. 2 saying schools should remain online for two weeks to align with quarantine protocols.
Her tweet reads, "Given the severity of our state's situation and the virus's trajectory after the holiday period, Gov. @dougducey should order schools to remain in distance learning for a limited two-week period to align with quarantine protocols and current @AZDHS benchmark recommendations."
Hoffman called for the two-week "quarantine period" for schools after the Department of Health Services on Saturday — the second day of the new year — reported nearly 8,900 additional known COVID-19 cases, giving the state a two-day pandemic high for new cases.
She went on to say after the proposed two weeks of online learning, school leaders should use local health information to make decisions relating to online or in-person learning.
"We know the value of in-person learning and I share the desire to see all students return to in-person learning safely. The good news is there is a light at the end of this tunnel," one of her tweets read.
However, Ducey spokesman C.J. Karamargin said the governor "will not be considering this request or issuing this kind of mandate. This is a local decision. The online option is already available, and the governor has repeatedly made his preference clear: Kids have already lost out on a lot of learning, and he wants schools opened, safely."
Ducey, a Republican, and Hoffman, a Democrat, were aligned last spring when he ordered schools closed because of the coronavirus, but she voiced reservations during the fall as he urged schools to provide in-person learning.
Guidelines issued by Ducey’s administration during the fall let students remain in in-person classes beyond what earlier guidance would have recommended.
Many Arizona school districts in recent months have provided hybrid learning that includes both distanced and in-person instruction, while others either were already on remote learning or returning to it this month.
Many schools are set to resume classes in the coming week after the winter holidays.
Hoffman noted that educators are among groups included in a large category planned to be eligible fairly early for vaccinations against COVID-19, and she said she will continue to advocate that school personnel are prioritized for the shots "so that our schools can safely provide in-person instruction as quickly as possible."″
Educators and school staff are part of the Phase 1B rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and Hoffman says she fully supports this by advocating for their inoculations.
"I look forward to a safe return of our teachers and students to the classroom. But now, we must do everything possible to help our healthcare workers and keep our teachers and students safe," Hoffman said on Twitter.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.