PHOENIX - A liability waiver was sent to 249 Arizona school districts the week of July 27 and it started going out to parents as Aug. 17 marks the potential first day of in-person instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Arizona School Risk Retention Trust, the insurance carrier for districts, doesn’t have COVID-19 coverage. The waiver asks parents to acknowledge the risks, physical attendance is voluntary, their child is symptom-free and to waive their rights to sue if someone gets sick.
“I think like everyone, just a little anxious, a lot of questions," says Queen Creek High School teacher Shawn Hardina.
Parents in his district were sent the documents this week as well.
“When I look at this, even when I look at going back in the classroom, I gotta try and find a way to work with parents, because we are in this together to keep their kids safe, because we have to keep their kids safe, from pre-k through high school. How do we do that to protect students and also protect their families?" Hardina questioned.
Queen Creek Unified School district said it’s optional and not a requirement for kids to return to school.
“By signing this waiver, you’re really letting them off the hook of doing anything to protect the children," says attorney Johnathan Frutkin with Radix Law.
He adds that right now, schools like businesses, are trying to navigate uncharted waters while protecting themselves.
“Right now we don’t know what they’re supposed to do at all, and even if they do their best, they’re worried they’ll get sued. They’ll owe money for medical bills, but also maybe for a death of a family member. We don’t see a lot of kids dying but we do see a lot of adults so I think that’s part of the worry from the schools," Frutkin explained.
Gov. Doug Ducey is expected to make an announcement about the reopening of schools in the coming weeks.
A statement from Arizona School Risk Retention Trust reads:
The issue of coverage related to COVID-19 is one with which school districts nationwide are grappling. Here in Arizona, The Trust has a responsibility to alert districts and to help our members limit their liability.
Last week, when the information and documents were sent out, COVID-19 coverage was not available. The optional waiver included in those documents was intended as a tool to help districts make the fiscally prudent decisions necessary to bring students and teachers back to school safely. There 254 traditional public school districts and community college districts in Arizona. 249 of those are Trust members and received the information last week.
Since then, a coverage option has been developed. It will be presented to the board at its meeting on August 4 and we expect this solution will be approved.