Teachers head calls CUSD virus policy frustrating - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Teachers head calls CUSD virus policy frustrating

January 16th, 2022 development
Teachers head calls CUSD virus policy frustrating

By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

As COVID-19 transmission levels continue to rise here, the head of the Chandler Education Association is calling the COVID-19 situation at CUSD schools a mess after the administration announced earlier this month unveiled new quarantine guidelines that allow some affected students to return to classrooms faster.

Katie Nash, the president of CEA, said it’s disappointing because Chandler Unified School District officials did not even ask their group before announcing the changes two weeks ago.

“It’s disappointing to not be asked about any of this,” she said. “‘Hey, Katie, are teachers going to be for this?’ No! They’re so frustrated.”

CUSD, in an email to parents, announced some changes to its COVID protocols just as the number of cases are rising to levels not seen since January 2021. Like most of its neighboring districts, except Tempe Union and Kyrene, CUSD is maintaining an optional mask policy.

The county health department’s latest update on Jan. 13 showed CUSD transmission levels at the highest point since the pandemic began in March 2020. Cases per 100,000 people soared from 347 the previous week to a whopping 2,047 while positive new test results were at a record 40%.

County data on vaccination rates, given only for ZIP codes, show the percentage of South Chandler residents who have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine varies between 54.8% in 85248 and 85286 to 64.5% in 85249.

Chandler Unified’s dashboard for active COVID cases among students and staff showed 264 infections out of a total 49,222 people.

CUSD’s adjustment of quarantine protocols reflected changes in guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maricopa County Health Department.

Unvaccinated, non-symptomatic students who had a close contact with someone who has tested positive have a choice: quarantine for 10 days, return immediately if they wear a mask for 10 days or wear a mask for five days with a negative COVID-19 test.

Students who are vaccinated can return to school immediately and masks are strongly recommended. Students are considered unvaccinated until proof is submitted.

Students who have symptoms must still stay home for at least 24 hours. Any student who tests positive for the virus must still isolate at home for a minimum 10 days.

But that time can be shortened under the new guidelines: While students must isolate at home for at least five days, they can return if they are showing no symptoms; have not had a fever for at least 24 hours and have not used fever-reducing medication. However, they must wear a mask for five days.

“We are confident in the protocols we have in place as we know that students learn best when they are in school,” CUSD wrote parents.

Most school districts in the Valley made similar adjustments to their quarantine policies, although the American Medical Association called the CDC’s changes confusing and said it feared that they would make it easier for the virus to spread.

Nash said the new guidelines are adding more stress to already overworked teachers.

“It creates more tension in the classroom,” Nash said. “And it’s additional work for educators. We’re not supposed to enforce when they wear a mask.

“Typically, it’s the unvaccinated kids that are the ones that don’t want to wear a mask. And many of them are being told by their parents they don’t have to. It puts the kids in an awkward position as well. It’s just a mess.”

Nash said teachers are already overwhelmed because of extra tutoring they’ve been asked to do to help students catch up because they had been quarantined or lost ground during online learning.

She also said a mandatory mask policy would be welcome.

Last month, Vanessa Lopez Delgado, a teacher at Seton Catholic Preparatory, died from COVID-19. Nash said she didn’t know about it until told by a reporter.

“This woman died and it never even crossed my radar,” she said. “Last year when we lost a teacher it was everywhere. This year it’s like a speed bump in the road, and it shouldn’t be like that.

“Are people still worried? Yes. I think people have a false sense of hope. It feels like COVID has taken a backseat to trying to return to normal. People are going to have to pay attention.”