Parents and teachers unsure about upcoming school year regarding pandemic

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Under a state law passed in June, public schools in Arizona can’t require students or teachers to wear masks. With the school year about to be in full swing, some schools are now refuting the mandate. So what does this uncertainty mean for faculty and staff, and the kids in the classrooms? We talked about it with Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association.

Thomas said that right now, schools in the state are seeing “too many” COVID-19 cases. “It’s very predictable as districts have not been allowed to use the full array of mitigation against this virus,” he said. He added that, although much of the faculty, staff and students have access to the vaccine, roughly half of the students still don’t.

When it comes to protection efforts against the virus, Thomas said that public schools are limited in two fronts. The first limitation is the mask mandate removal that passed through the state legislature in June. “Districts can still ask for students to use them, but they can’t require them,” Thomas said.

He said that the second limitation that schools in the state are facing is funding-related.

“We can’t do everything that we want to do, that we know we need to do, because we’re prevented either by funding or the governor.”

The association president described the return to school as frustrating due to the awareness that the educators have around the situation. “We’ve had staff and entire classrooms that have needed to quarantine so far,” he said.

“It’s not going to get better until we have enough Arizonans who have not only took the vaccine but are doing everything we’ve been told to do for the past year and a half now.”

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