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Arizona School Districts Consider Closing During Teacher Walkout

Since the announcement of an educator walkout planned for Thursday, each school district has had to decide how to respond—whether to shut down schools over a lack of staffing, whether to stay open or something in between.

As of last night, 62 Arizona school districts, including Deer Valley Unified School District, plan to close their schools and 37 districts and charter networks have announced they plan to stay open, although many will operate on an early release schedule. Those numbers are from an Arizona Republic analysis of various notices from these districts, which are all rapidly approaching the end of the school year.

“Ensuring that we did not impact our seniors was a very important part of our decision making,” said Jennifer Liewer, spokesperson for the Tempe Union High School District.

Her district plans to close its seven schools Thursday and Friday. She said the schools had anywhere from 30 percent to 60 percent of teachers reporting that they would be absent Thursday for the walkout, so the district decided there wouldn’t be enough staff for the thousands of students they serve.

But Liewer says they’re trying to make sure the closures impact students as little as possible. So some activities are still on the books.

“Graduation will currently take place as planned," she said. "We have AP and IB testing that happens in May and our AZ Merit testing wrapped up today."

She added that after school clubs and sports will still happen, too. It’s been a balancing act for the district’s officials to try to meet student needs and also support its teacher’s decision to walkout. Liewer said the district’s governing board temporarily suspended a requirement that teachers have a doctor’s note for more than three sick days—in case the walkout lasts longer than three days.

Liewer also said they’re taking this walkout one day at a time, while trying to figure out a plan beyond Friday if the walkout keeps going.  

Some districts are still tallying the staff who have requested the day off, and waiting to make a decision.

Steve Goldstein was a host at KJZZ from 1997 to 2022.