The Sunnyside School District will be returning to remote learning after the Thanksgiving break until at least Jan. 4 due to a rise in COVID-19 and the possibility of an even greater increase around the holidays.
Superintendent Steve Holmes told the governing board on Tuesday night that despite having numerous cases in Sunnyside schools since opening for hybrid, in-person learning on Oct. 19, there had not been any coronavirus spread within campuses but rather the positive cases were coming from exposures in activities outside of school.
"Despite the fact ... that we've had zero transmission in the schools between folks, there's still a fear that if this gets even bigger, I may not be able to say that," Holmes said.
With more cases in schools, there are gaps in service, with more teachers, staff and administrators having to quarantine, Holmes said. Sunnyside isn't the only district having this problem, with Flowing Wells High School announcing Tuesday, Nov. 10, a more than two-week closure due to numerous staff quarantining.
There is also a growing anxiety among teachers, as TUSD, Tucson's largest school district delayed their reopening due to a rise in cases.
Holmes says that the Pima County Health Department did not recommend that Sunnyside close schools at this time, but he recommended it because of the level of anxiety among staff and increase in cases.
"The fact that we had many more cases being reported raised our levels of concern of whether we could actually get through this holiday season without any transmission, and we want it to be proactive," he said.
Sunnyside's last day of hybrid will be Nov. 25. Holmes said that students should largely be able to stay with the teachers they have currently.
School will resume after the December holiday break on Jan. 4, but whether that is fully remote or hybrid in-person is dependent on the public health data and advice from the Pima County Health Department.
In-person care services, but not live instruction, will be available for families in need.