Valley school districts work to decide how to move forward in pandemic

School districts across the Valley are meeting for the last time this year, deciding on school closures and when to allow kids back on campus for in-person learning next year.

It seems every district is taking a different approach and no school district has the same closure plan and time frame. Every district in the Valley has also decided on different schedules.

In the Phoenix Union High School District, students will stay with remote learning until mid-February. Other districts plan to return to in-person earlier and at least one district is staying remote through the end of spring break.

Tolleson Union High Schools have remained empty for the entire school year so far and district leaders have decided to continue remote learning through the end of spring break in March.

Freddie Villalon is the Tolleson Union High School District Board President and says, "Our infection rate within the community is in the 20s, so it’s really high. So right now it’s not safe to bring the children and staff members back."

According to numbers posted by the Maricopa County Health Department recently, the percent positivity rate for COVID-19 in the Tolleson area is just under 21%. Villalon says they want to see the positivity rate go down to 5% or lower.

"Once the data goes down, once the infection rate goes down, then we can start talking about bringing the children and staff members back safely," Villalon said.

The positivity rate in the Valley’s largest school district, Mesa Public Schools, is at around 16%. District leaders decided to close campuses for two weeks after winter break and will decide to reopen on a campus-by-campus basis starting Jan. 19th depending on the latest data for each school.

Although state and county officials have released guidance and benchmarks for schools to follow amid rising COVID-19 rates, individual school districts can and are creating their own benchmarks and policy.