Pima Schools look to resume in-person instruction August 17

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Discovery Plus Academy will resume in-person instruction Monday, Aug. 17 and the Pima School District looks to follow with the same pending school board approval.

By Jon Johnson

jonjohnsonnews@gmail.com

PIMA – On Tuesday, the school board for Discovery Plus Academy – a K-5 charter school located in Pima, unanimously voted to return to in-person instruction Monday, Aug. 17 and the Pima School District looks to follow that example.

The school board meeting was attended by numerous parents who were in favor of returning to the classroom. The school will take additional precautionary measures, including the wearing of masks, use of hand sanitizer and handwashing stations, only have one class in the lunchroom at a time, and more.

According to the Graham County Department of Health and Human Services, cases in Graham County are on the decline with 94 for the week two weeks ago, 59 for the week one week ago, and just 14 for the first three days of this current week. School superintendents met with Graham County Health Director Brian Douglas on Monday to go over the situation and he advised that it would be up to the individual school districts to make the decision to return to in-person schooling.

The Pima School District also plans on opening to in-person instruction on Monday, Aug. 17, however, that decision is still pending approval from the Pima School Board. The board is set to meet Thursday, Aug. 13 at 6 p.m. at the Digger O’Dell Community Activity Center and will take up the matter then. The Pima School District attends school four days a week, Monday – Thursday. The Safford Unified School District also has a governing school board meeting Thursday, Aug. 13, starting at 7 p.m. at the SUSD Office board room.

The Thatcher School District Governing Board has previously announced its desire to return to in-person instruction Aug. 17. Read the Thatcher School District re-opening protocols and plan here.

According to a letter sent to parents in the Pima School District, Pima has consistently tested at a lower than expected number of cases throughout the pandemic and is indeed one of the lowest municipalities in the state.

While Graham County as a whole does not meet the recommended benchmarks for reopening schools, the data is skewed toward larger populations, and counties with lower populations are not as easily represented in the benchmarks. Additionally, more than 90 percent of parents surveyed in the district indicated that they want to send students back to campus with mitigation efforts in place.  

“Among the concerns, we need to address is our ability to attract and retain quality teachers,” Pima Superintendent Sean Rickert said in the letter. “We value our teachers and their needs, so I have asked them to share their feelings about reopening schools. I can tell you that they have concerns about bringing students back onto campus for classes, and it will be a great deal of work for them to get everything set up to be ready for students to come on campus on Monday. But, they love the opportunity to work with your children. We will support their efforts to get things ready, but our teachers did not provide a reason to justify keeping schools closed.”

“This is not a decision I have made lightly. From day one my top priority and my first concern has been to balance the need to provide a quality education for every child with the need to do so in a safe environment. At this time that means returning to on campus school.”

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