Students, staff get support from Arizona's top educator to begin heading back into classrooms

For the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Arizona’s top educator is now advocating for some schools to begin planning to re-open campuses.

Thousands of students across the state haven't set foot on a school campus for nearly an entire year. Now, state leaders are signaling a shift with more school employees getting vaccinated and recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines now focus on getting kids back into the classroom.

"I’m offering our support and expertise to schools as they expand or plan for in-person learning," said Kathy Hoffman, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, on Wednesday.

About 40% of schools in the state are only offering remote learning right now. Hoffman says recent CDC guidelines that include layering mitigation measures have proven to be successful.

"The key pieces of their guidance points to the importance of wearing a mask, social distancing, and prioritizing in-person academics over other things such as sports," Hoffman said.

Dr. Jason Vargas with the Arizona Academy of Pediatrics says, "The risk at the schools can actually be lower in the schools than in the community. Now that we have widespread availability of vaccines for teachers here in Arizona, I think that, combined with that layered approach, teachers can start to feel comfortable."

Still, some teachers and parents say they’re hesitant to fill classrooms up with students again.

Katie Nash is a parent and teacher, and although she's back in the classroom, she decided to keep her own children remote learning.

"I still think cases in Arizona are very high. With the different strains being more contagious, I worry about the community spread rising again and being ill-prepared. With the delays in getting the vaccines out to people, it still makes me personally very nervous," Nash said.

Hoffman says there is no time-frame or requirement for schools to return to in-person learning. Those decisions will continue to be made by local school districts.

Osborn School District students, staff head back to school soon

A school district in central Phoenix is getting ready to welcome students back to campus for the first time in nearly a year.

Kids in the Osborn School District have not set foot on a school campus for nearly an entire year, but next month, students and staff will be coming back to school.

"The reason we are planning the reopening is we have had access to vaccinations and we’re up to 90% of our entire staff has been vaccinated," explained Ylenia Aguilar, Osborn School District Governing Board President.

She says by the time it opens up school campuses for in-person learning on March 15, 95% of its school staff should be vaccinated.

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COVID-19 symptoms

Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

RELATED: Is it the flu, a cold or COVID-19? Different viruses present similar symptoms

COVID-19 resources

CDC Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)

AZDHS Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)