Update on Modified Hybrid Proposals
Prescott Unified remains committed to the health and safety of our students. Our implementation of the 2-day in-person instruction per week hybrid model has been successful, and we have had no transmissions of the virus at school. Although the state metrics still recommend the hybrid learning model, we feel we can safely implement a modified hybrid learning model which increases students’ time on campus with more in-person instruction. We feel confident that this phased-in approach will keep students safe, follow state metric recommendations, and honor our board-adopted Roadmap for Reopening Schools.
While this week’s metric update is encouraging, and we are hopeful that the data will trend downward, there is a possibility that our modified hybrid plans will have to change if the metrics increase substantially, and it becomes apparent that there is uncontrolled spread of the virus in the community. Unless this happens, we will move forward on the timeline detailed below.
We will be moving into a modified hybrid model for our K-4 schools starting on Monday, November 2. This model includes having all K-4 students on campus for in-person instruction Monday through Thursday with Friday remaining as an at-home workday. Preliminary research shows that kids younger than 10 years old are much less likely to spread COVID amongst peers and adults. In addition, these students remain in smaller cohorts with fewer class transitions. Also, we know that in-person instruction is the best model of instruction for learning to read and laying the foundation for long-term academic success. Here is a link to information regarding the spread of the virus among children under the age of 10. Section 3 of the document provides information on children and virus transmission.
Keeping Fridays as at-home workdays is critical to our comprehensive cleaning and sanitizing of classrooms. Our custodial service uses the electrostatic sprayer in all classrooms on Fridays. This cleaning method kills any lingering virus but can’t be done while students and staff are present. Additionally, the absence of students on campuses on Fridays reduces the number of days for potential close contacts if and when we have positive COVID cases reported to us.
We will be moving into a modified hybrid model for our 5-12 schools starting on Monday, November 16. The details for this model in our 5-12 schools are still being finalized. However, preliminary plans are that students will be on campus three days per week with two at-home workdays. Older students are larger in size and tend to spread the virus similar to adults, so we are carefully evaluating the safest way to bring these students back three days per week. We want to avoid transmission of the virus at school and have seen schools in the Phoenix area that have had to quarantine large numbers of students, including one school that quarantined 450 high school students. We want to avoid this situation and keep moving towards full reopening without having to backtrack or close our schools due to outbreaks.
We need your help! Please continue to keep your child home if he/she is showing symptoms of COVID, continue to do health screenings at home before school each day, and practice preventative health measures in the community and at family gatherings, so the metrics will continue to decrease. Keep in mind that increased student density on campus increases the chances of having to quarantine students due to close contacts with a positive case. In addition, PUSD will develop guidelines as to when we may have to go back to a 2-day hybrid model if we are unable to successfully protect the health and safety of staff and students in the modified hybrid model or the community metrics rise substantially. We will share those guidelines soon.
It is important to remember that this proposal is still a “hybrid model,” and not full in-person instruction. In accordance with our Roadmap, health and safety protocols will still be implemented. This includes wearing masks, hand cleaning and sanitizing, and physical distancing as much as possible. In addition, restrictions to on-campus activities remain in place such as minimal volunteers and visitors, no field trips, virtual clubs, and limitations on athletics and athletic events.
Please know that we are not making these decisions lightly. Our leaders and teams have been working on safe reopening options nonstop, really, since March. It is a complex process of weighing input from health professionals, parents, community and staff, all in the best interest of our students. In PUSD, we have extensive processes to make sure that our Governing Board and our staff are all part of this process so that there are no surprise decisions (if and when possible.) I believe these strong and trusting relationships have gotten us through some very tough times we have seen. We are still right in the middle of that, and continue to look for that light at the end of the tunnel. While today’s modified hybrid models are not the end of the tunnel, they are a major step. I believe that we will continue to have success through our health and safety protocols, which will continue to build confidence toward a safe full in-person return. Thank you all for your partnership.
Joe Howard, Superintendent