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Tucson's largest school district to stay remote as COVID-19 cases rise

Tucson's largest school district to stay remote as COVID-19 cases rise

TUSD superintendent Gabriel Trujillo

TUSD Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo is holding off on hybrid learning.

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Tucson Unified School District will stick with remote learning as it heads into the second semester, on Jan. 4.

Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo doesn’t know when Tucson’s largest school district, with more than 42,000 students and about 8,000 employees, will open for in-person learning because of the rising number of COVID-19 cases and the numerous challenges they create for schools.

The ability of schools to open “is inextricably linked to the behavior of this community,” Trujillo said at a Governing Board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

“Whether a faculty member, an employee or a student contracts COVID-19 out in the community or in one of our schools, the result is the same,” he said. “We still have to quarantine. We still have to remove teachers from classrooms. We still have to close classrooms. We still have to close schools.”

Warehouse workers at the Tucson Unified School District Food Services Department building unload coolers and crates from buses returning from grab-and-go distributions. The TUSD Food Services Department has continued to provide services for students and families throughout the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and is currently providing about 30,000 meals a week for students. (Josh Galemore / Arizona Daily Star)

Although the transmission rate inside Pima County schools is relatively low at about 3%, transmission throughout the community is only growing, creating staffing issues in some school districts when large numbers of staff are forced to quarantine at one time due to potential exposure to the coronavirus.

Trujillo said a lack of available substitutes for those in quarantine is one reason behind TUSD’s decision to stay remote for the time being.

The superintendent said he’s heard from parents who want the district to open, in part because students are struggling academically.

There is an “alarming increase” of F’s this year compared to last, Trujillo said, especially in the secondary grades.

In the middle school grades, the number of F’s has increased by 67% over last year, and in high school there was a 38% increase in F’s.

Like many school leaders and elected officials, Trujillo says whether schools open comes down to everyone doing their part to slow the spread of the virus.

Following mitigation measures on both an individual and large scale “is the only way we are going to be able to give the gift of school back to the thousands of students and thousands of employees that have been waiting for it,” Trujillo said.

Tucson’s second largest school district, Sunnyside, plans to return to hybrid learning on Jan. 19. The governing board decided to wait a couple of weeks into the second semester in case there is a rise in COVID cases following winter break.

Contact reporter Danyelle Khmara at or 573-4223. On Twitter: @DanyelleKhmara

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