Phoenix Union High School District will stay online for Second Quarter

The Phoenix Union High School District announced on Sept. 14 it will remain in remote learning mode to ensure the wellbeing of their nearly 4,000 employees and 28,000 students.

The district says it is critical that they do their part to slow the community spread of COVID-19. Arts, athletics, and activities have been postponed, and there are limited on-site support services.

"Unfortunately, the Phoenix Union community is still experiencing substantial spread of COVID, although there are recent signs of improvement. According to both state and county health data, Phoenix Union remains in the red. In order to reopen schools for learning, Phoenix Union needs to move from substantial spread (red) to moderate spread (yellow), and then from moderate to minimal spread (green)," explained Richard Franco, PXU's Director of Marketing and Communications.

MAP: Arizona coronavirus cases by zip code

Franco says PXU will not reach minimal spread (green) in time to launch in-person learning in October and they will remain in remote learning during the second quarter.

"We will launch PXU Remote Learning 2.0, as we will make several changes and improvements to our current model and begin to phase in more on-campus student opportunities, activities, and support. If, unexpectedly, we reach minimal spread (green) in November, we will consider even more on-site options to end the quarter."

In a YouTube video from Sept. 14, Superintendent Dr. Chad Gestson stated, "We will always put your health, your wellness and your safety at the forefront of all of our decisions. And second is that we will never abandon our community, that we will continue to provide vital services, important activities and opportunities for our families and our students to stay healthy and engaged during these tough times."

Gestson says they had always planned to make decisions each quarter, not week by week. 

The district will make some improvements to the virtual learning system and could consider more on-site options in November if cases continue to drop.

Parent weighs in on the decision

“It’s been a topic of conversation in my house for months," says Monica Maldonado, mother of two children in the Phoenix Union High School District (PUHSD).

They’ll be a part of the 28,000 students now staying home for the second quarter, something Maldonado is OK with. She cares for her elderly parents and had to weigh the risks.

“It was a relief because we didn’t know what would happen in October. What were we going to do? We need the kids back in school, but the risk we bring into the home is significant," Maldonado said.

The school district made the decision to not return to in-person after the fall break citing state and local health guidelines.

“In order for schools to return to in-person learning, schools must have minimal spread within its boundaries. Phoenix Union serves several zip codes across the district and almost every single one of them remains in the red," says Dr. Chad Gestson, PUHSD Superintendent.

Districts around the state have done different things, with some parents holding multiple rallies to demand their children go back to in-person learning.

Maldonado says she sympathizes with them, but her family is trying to look out for the greater good.

“Probably if I were to weigh things, there are more reasons I want them to return than not, but at the end of the day it’s about the safety of the larger community," she said.

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