New benchmarks: schools continue to proceed with caution



Since the school closed for quarantine in March, most students anticipated the reopening. As neighboring schools began to reopen, PHS students eagerly waited their turn. Now, being almost a month into school, there are several coronavirus cases reported and many students have been sent home to quarantine as a result of the virus. Winter sports have also been canceled to stop the spread. 

As positive coronavirus cases rise, nearby schools have begun closing their doors to students using a hybrid or virtual model. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not it is safe to keep schools open is up to the school board. 

The Arizona Department of Health recently posted new benchmarks for school districts to refer to when deciding whether or not to take a more online-supported approach. A hybrid model is recommended for schools that have exceed a 5 percent positivity rate. 

Although the district has previously rejected a hybrid model, it is still up for consideration as the cases climb. CUSD Director of Health Services, Lyndsay Hartley, touched on the subject of a hybrid model. She explains,  “These are discussions we continue to have to provide students with various options.” A hybrid model would be an especially useful option for students to ensure that they are experiencing different ways to learn the material in a safe way. 

An entirely virtual model could leave students feeling worried about falling behind solely because of technological issues or the inability to properly communicate with their teachers or classmates. Senior Noah Plant expressed his worries about going completely online. “My biggest concern about online school is not having reliable internet,” which emphasizes the importance of learning being school supported. 

Principal Dan Serrano also suggested that there is a specific hybrid plan if schools were to close as a way to help every student succeed. “If we were forced to go hybrid or if we were forced to shut down, we would be much more prepared than we were last March, it was so new. But now… I feel comfortable, if we need to make a change, we are prepared to do it.” 

Serrano further explained that the reason that the school is more prepared for a hybrid model, or possible school closure is the knowledge that teachers now have about how to use technology such as google classroom and google meets, which can help them connect with their students while navigating learning online. Even during the month of October (when we were in-person), many teachers continued to use google classroom to turn in assignments, so if they are mandated to transition back to online learning, it will surely be a smoother transition. 

However, going online is a worry for many students who thrive on the ability to communicate with teachers in a classroom setting. Until a vaccine is received that can effectively curve the spread of the coronavirus, responsible actions should be taken to keep schools healthy and running smoothly.  Serrano advised, “Follow the recommendations of the simple things. Wear a mask, wash your hands, you have to be careful… A lot of being safe is what you do yourself. If you’re not careful, you are putting yourself at risk.” 

Ultimately, fighting a virus may seem out of control, but it is very important to follow the safety guidelines in and out of school to stop the spread of COVID-19. Because attending in-person school is the ideal situation, students share a lot of the responsibility to ensure that we keep the community safe.