During a lengthy and contentious meeting Tuesday night, the Queen Creek School Board in suburban Phoenix voted 4 to 1 to resume school with 100% in-person learning starting Aug. 17.
This is the first district in the metro Phoenix area to vote to reopen despite Maricopa and Pinal counties Covid-19 positivity rates not meeting the state's recommended metrics for reopening. The Queen Creek school district spans parts of both Maricopa and Pinal counties.
The meeting included passionate opinions from teachers, parents and students both for and against reopening schools. The president of the Queen Creek Education Association, Jacob Frantz, said four of the five members of the board are educators themselves, with personal interests in reopening schools.
"What you've got here are five people who are very concerned and want the best education for their kids," Frantz said.
Several students approached the microphone and expressed their wishes to return to "normal" and in-person school, while some educators said they are worried about the possibility of becoming infected at school.
"I'm a special education teacher here in Queen Creek," Karen Vernon said. "I am a person and I feel defeated and I feel sad," she said, asking the Board to let her out of her contract and accept her resignation from her position.
The final vote in favor of full in-person learning was met with applause and cheers.
The board member who voted against the measure was also met with applause when he said he thought the district should slowly return to in-person learning in case of a surge of new cases. The district will still have a virtual learning option for those students who choose it.
Some context: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced the state's "Roadmap for Reopening Schools" plan earlier this month, which recommends communities with a less than a 5% positivity rate can resume in-person school, ensuring "minimal community spread.”
Maricopa County reported a positivity rate Tuesday of 13.9%, and Pinal County reported an 11.9% positivity rate, according to the Arizona Department of Health's website.