PHOENIX (KVOA) - Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued Wednesday a new executive order returning schools to in-person, teacher-led instruction.
In a news release, Ducey's office said "according to metrics developed by the CDC, 12 of Arizona’s 15 counties are in phases where all schools are safe to open, including in the state’s two largest counties, Maricopa and Pima."
Under the order, schools are to return to in-person learning by March 15 or after spring break.
Exceptions will be for middle and high schools located in counties with “high” transmission of COVID-19, according to the governor. Currently, those counties are Coconino, Yavapai and Pinal.
“Arizona’s students need to be back in the classroom. More than half of Arizona’s schools are open and offering in-person options. More schools need to follow their lead, and pave the way for equitable education options for every Arizona student,” said Ducey in the news release.
In a Twitter thread, Ducey said virtual learning will remain an option for those who do not feel comfortable sending their kids back to the classroom.
View the Governor’s Executive Order HERE.
Nearly a year ago, Ducey and other officials ordered statewide closures of schools.
In January, the governor said Arizona schools that have closed because of the pandemic must end virtual learning and return students to the classroom or lose money.
Pima County Health Department's Youth Health & Safety Program Director responded to Gov. Ducey's order with the following, "“The executive order did not surprise us. We’ve stayed ahead of the game by working closely with every district in Pima County and with superintendent Williams’s office to provide support and guidance to educators. Gov. Ducey’s order is right in line with what we’ve been suggesting since in-person classes resumed last fall. With the new order, the decision to close a full school site or district will remain a collaborative process, though it may take more time due to the verification required by the state.”"
So far, Arizona has seen 819, 954 total COVID-19 cases and 16,089 deaths.
This is a breaking news story. Stay with News 4 Tucson for the latest.