An Arizona school district canceled its reopening plans because too many teachers refused to show up (Alexandra Ma)
·3 min read
  • The J.O. Combs Unified School District in Arizona canceled plans to reopen on Monday, August 17, after widespread backlash from teaching staff.

  • "Due to these insufficient staffing levels, schools will not be able to reopen on Monday as planned," Superintendent Gregory A. Wyman said in a Friday statement.

  • Virtual classes will also be suspended until further notice, Wyman said.

  • The district had voted to resume in-person classes last Monday. Following the vote, 109 out of 250 teachers had reported that they would be absent, the Arizona Republic reported.

  • Many parents had called on the district to reopen for in-person classes, according to the Arizona Republic.

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teachers protest
Teachers who oppose schools reopening protest at the Hillsborough County Public Schools district office on August 6, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. This district is not mentioned in this story.

An Arizona school district has reversed its reopening plans after nearly half its teachers refused to attend in-person classes in the fall.

The J.O. Combs Unified School District announced on Friday that it would no longer reopen for in-person classes on Monday, August 17. It also said it would cancel virtual classes until further notice.

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"We have received an overwhelming response from staff indicating that they do not feel safe returning to classrooms with students," Superintendent Gregory A. Wyman said in a statement addressed to parents. "In response, we have received a high volume of staff absences for Monday citing health and safety concerns."

"Due to these insufficient staffing levels, schools will not be able to reopen on Monday as planned. This means that all classes, including virtual learning, will be canceled," he added.

"At this time, we do not know the duration of these staff absences, and cannot yet confirm when in-person instruction may resume."

"Please know that we are acutely aware of how polarizing this issue is, and how challenging these ongoing developments are for our entire community," he added.

The school district is home to five elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. A majority of its parents had called for schools to reopen, the Arizona Republic reported.

The staff refusal came after the school district voted to reopen schools for in-person teaching last Monday.

Out of 250 teachers employed in the district, 109 certified staff had applied to be absent on Monday, the Republic reported, citing a district spokeswoman.

Two certified employees and two classified employees have also resigned since the vote, the Republic reported.

The neighboring Queen Creek Unified School District had also received staff pushback after voting to reopen classes on Monday, but is still going ahead with reopening plans, the Republic reported.

The J.O. Combs Unified School District is located in Pinal County, which as of Saturday has recorded more than 8,600 coronavirus cases and 164 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University's tracker.

Neighboring Maricopa County is the third-worst hit county in the entire country, with more than 127,700 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 2,500 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker. Los Angeles and Miami-Dade counties are first- and second-worst hit, respectively.

The state of Arizona is one of the epicenters of the US coronavirus outbreak, with the fifth-highest number of hospitalizations in the country, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker.

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