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Hundreds of TUSD parents, teachers sign letter to delay in-person classes

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TUCSON (KVOA) - On Monday, Gov. Doug Ducey delayed the start of school for students and families until August 17. But some in Southern Arizona’s largest district want to delay even further.

A week before the governor made his decision, three moms in the Tucson Unified School District wrote a letter to the school board and the administration outlining their concerns about beginning in-person classes in August.

The letter is now gaining both signatures and momentum. It has almost 1,500 signatures from parents and teachers in just a week. 

“We wrote it from a place of love for our community and a fierce, fierce feeling of protectiveness and we want our community to be safe,” parent Kat Rodriguez said. 

Rodriguez has twin girls who go to Miles Exploratory Learning Center. 
She and others fear sending their kids back into the classroom during the pandemic.

“I have friends that are already looking at online options and are thinking they might have to leave the district," Rodriguez said. "I know people who are teachers who are thinking they might have to retire because they cannot be forced back into the classroom. You know, that’s a problem."

TUSD Board President Kristel Ann Foster applauds the parents who crafted the letter.

“If the letter was sent to the governor or to the legislature, without a doubt, I would have signed along,” Foster said. 

According to the school board president, the state mandate gives families the choice to decide between in-person classes and online instruction . 

Foster said if the board decides to go against that, it would cost the district millions. 

“In order to have full funding for online courses, you must offer in person classes five days a week,” Foster said. “If we were to say we don’t believe in that, we’re only going to offer online, then that’s a $10 million hit.”

Foster urges Ducey, and state and local education leaders to communicate and collaborate to make the best decision for Arizona’s kids.

“We need to think together,” Foster said. “We have to be communicating more about how do we solve this problem. How do we make sure our community has a safe place for our children, so their parents can continue to work and we continue to learn but so that our teachers are not sacrificial lambs to make that happen?”

TUSD superintendent, Dr. Gabriel Trujillo released the following statement in response to the governor's recent executive order.

Yesterday afternoon Governor Ducey announced the delayed start of the school year until August 17th for Arizona school districts.  For TUSD this means that the opening of the school year originally set for August 6th has now been delayed. Our new first day of the new school year has been scheduled for Monday, August 17th, giving the district  more time to prepare for a safe and organized entry into our schools. 

We are reviewing how this adjustment will impact the start date for our staff and teachers, as well as the school calendar.  We appreciate everyone’s patience as we work through this very fluid situation.

Dr. Gabriel Trujillo

Other school districts in Southern Arizona released shared their reaction to the governor's order.

The following is a statement from Sunnyside Unified School District superintendent, Steve Holmes.

As a result of the Governors orders we are working with our Governing Board, our teacher association and our classified staff association to determine our course of action so that we are able to begin remote learning on our regularly scheduled start date of August 5th.

Steve Holmes

The next statement is from the Amphitheather School District.

The Amphitheater School District is evaluating the governor’s order and how to best serve the needs of our students, employees and community. Our teachers and staff miss seeing our students in person, but we recognize that in this constantly evolving and changing environment, we have to do our part in keeping our community safe.

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Eric Fink

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