PUSD schools will return to hybrid learning in February

Photo by Krista Allen/Lake Powell Chronicle

By Steven Law
Special to the Chronicle

PAGE – The Page Unified School District announced Thursday that its schools will transition back to hybrid learning on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

Under the hybrid model, students will have the option to attend class in person or remain home and attend class virtually.

“We exist to educate students and while the remote environment has allowed learning to continue, we know that having our students in person is the best way to support learning and ensure that we meet our students’ needs,” PUSD Superintendent Larry Wallen wrote Wednesday in a statement to the community.

The decision to allow in-person learning came on the heels of two recent reports. One recent publication from the Arizona Department of Education emphasized the benefits of in-person learning. That report coincided with a report from the World Health Organization published in January which showed that school-aged children, particularly students under 10 “are less contagious than older children and adults.”

The report stated that fewer than five percent of children aged 0-9 years old became infected if exposed to Covid-19.

The WHO report suggests, “The emerging data indicates that in-person school attendance is not a risk factor for the youth testing positive for COVID-19.”

This was all good news to Wallen. 

“With the information now being provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services, we believe it is in the best interest of our students to get them back in school as soon as possible regardless of the metrics,” Wallen said. 

Another big factor allowing the district to return to hybrid learning is having a large number of PUSD teachers receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

At least 100 PUSD teachers on Jan. 20 traveled to Tuba City where they were inoculated with the first round of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The teachers are scheduled to return to Tuba City Feb. 10 for their second vaccination.

Arranging vaccinations for PUSD teachers was largely due to the efforts of Peter Jones, the COVID-19 specialist for the district, who reached out to health providers in northern Arizona in an effort to get PUSD teachers and staff vaccinated when the vaccine became available.

Tuba City Regional Health Care in earlier this month reached out to Jones and invited PUSD to be part of its vaccination blitz for educators. Several other staff members have reached out to Banner Hospital and to Lake Powell Medical Center. Some have received their first dose of the vaccine and some are scheduled to receive it.

PUSD moved to hybrid learning for a brief period last fall, but retreated to remote learning on Nov. 16 after rising COVID-19 numbers pushed school opening metrics from green to red.

The schools and teachers will implement several steps in the coming weeks as they prepare to welcome students back into classrooms on Feb. 16. Schools will re-open their Onsite Support Services on Feb. 1.  All staff will return to their buildings and classrooms the week of Feb. 8-12.

If PUSD experiences a school-related outbreak that can’t be controlled with public health mitigation strategies, it will transition back to a remote learning environment.

If students don’t feel comfortable returning to school in person, they can still attend their classes remotely.