Right to Safe Schools for AZ Kids - Letter of Concern
Arizonans have a right to safe schools for Arizona kids. Parents and the community have a right to expect that Arizona district schools and charters will provide students with a safe learning environment and will take reasonable steps to protect students in their care.

Governor Ducey is preventing school officials from implementing proven public health mitigation strategies to help protect students while COVID-19 cases are increasing in our communities and variants are becoming more widespread.

Governor Ducey recently signed into law A.R.S. 15-342.05 which prohibits school districts and charters from requiring the use of face coverings by students or staff during school hours and on school property even in the case of a COVID-19 outbreak on campus. The Governor is now attempting to prohibit school districts and charters from requiring students who have been exposed to COVID-19 from temporary quarantine as recommended by the Arizona Department of Health Services, county health departments across the state, and the CDC. These agencies along with public health experts recommend that students who have had known contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case should quarantine.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement on July 19, 2021, recommending a layered approach for all schools this year, including a recommendation that everyone over the age of 2 years old wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status. (http://azpha.wildapricot.org/resources/covid%20release-from-isolation.pdf; https://services.aap.org/en/news-room/news-releases/aap/2021/american-academy-of-pediatrics-updates-recommendations-for-opening-schools-in-fall-2021/ )

*This Letter of Concern was written in July 2021 and has since been updated to align with current CDC guidance The letter of concerned was written by group of parents, professionals, and community members: Jessica Wani, JD, Elizabeth Jacobs, PhD, Cadey Harrel, MD, Christina Bergin, MD, and Trevor Nelson.

It asks ADHS and the Governor to maintain quarantining policies for exposed students and to allow schools to be able to determine the public health strategies that keep their communities safe. This letter, along with signers will be shared with Arizona Health Department Services and Governor Ducey.

To sign on to this letter please fill out the form below and feel free to add whether you are a concerned parent, guardian, grandparent, student, teacher, community member, principal, taxpayer, healthcare professional, etc.

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Dear Governor Ducey & Arizona Department of Health Services:

We are concerned parents, grandparents, taxpayers, students, teachers, healthcare professionals, and community members who believe our school districts and charter schools must be able to protect students, many of whom are not yet eligible for vaccination, from the spread of COVID-19 while attending school. The children of Arizona have the right to attend in-person school in a safe learning environment.

The Governor has made it illegal for schools to implement proven mitigation measures to keep children safe, despite public health recommendations. The Arizona Medical Association issued a statement on the importance of upholding public health policies in K-12 schools including masking and temporary quarantine policies for students (https://www.azmed.org/news/573753/Arizona-Medical-Associations-Statement-on-Upholding-Public-Health-Policies-in-K-12-Schools.htm). Our school leaders must be able to work with local county health departments to implement community control measures for COVID-19 to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of students in their care.

We implore Arizona Health Department Services (ADHS) to maintain temporary quarantine policies for exposed students in school settings to allow school districts to work with their local county health department in determining appropriate community control measures.

We further implore ADHS and the Governor to allow and recommend that school officials follow current CDC guidelines for K-12 schools, which state:

(1) Masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) regardless of vaccination status. Consistent and correct mask use is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
(2) CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with indoor mask wearing to reduce transmission risk. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully re-open while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as indoor masking.
(3) Screening, testing, ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfection are also important layers of prevention to keep schools safe.
(4) Students, teachers, and staff should stay home when they have signs of any infectious illness and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.
Many schools serve children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for vaccination at this time. Therefore, this guidance emphasizes implementing layered prevention strategies (e.g., using multiple prevention strategies together consistently) to protect people who are not fully vaccinated.

At a bare minimum school officials must be able to work with their local county health departments to determine which public health strategies should be employed to keep students safe in their community, including targeted mandatory masking in the case of an outbreak on campus to stop the spread of COVID-19 and the more contagious Delta variant to protect students and the community.

If the Governor and/or state government will not permit schools to follow the expert recommendations of the CDC and healthcare professionals, then we implore education leaders, including the AZ Department of Education, ASBA, AZSA, and other student focused organizations to pursue all remedies to the extent permitted by law, in order to stop the reckless and harmful law (A.R.S. 15-342.05) preventing schools from implementing common sense mitigation strategies.

Schools begin welcoming back students as early as July and we are seeing a daily uptick in COVID-19 cases with the Delta variant becoming more common in our communities. Parents, students, and community members deserve to know Arizona’s children can safely attend school and that school officials can make decisions that best fit their community's needs.

Sincerely,

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