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J.O. Combs School Board Votes To Start In-Person Classes After Labor Day

The J.O. Combs Unified School District’s governing board voted on Thursday to start in-person learning after Labor Day.

Pinal County, where the district is located, is close to meeting the three recommended public health benchmarks set by the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The district had previously hoped to start in-person learning on Aug. 17, but had to reverse its plan after teachers staged a sick out.

At its Thursday meeting, the board reviewed the county's recent COVID-19 data and concluded that local metrics are headed in the right direction and decided in a 4-1 vote to start in-person learning on Sept. 8. Board member Patricia Pinckard casted the sole nay vote. 

The district’s schools will stay open after that date unless the health department directs it to make adjustments at a particular school site, said board member Chad McLeod.

“These metrics will likely fluctuate up and down, up and down," he said. "We can’t submit ourselves to being constantly in a yo-yo whether we are in class or whether we’re not.” 

Parents will have the choice to send their students back to school or keep them home, McLeod said. 

Before the vote, the board was presented with a survey where 42% of teachers said they want to wait until the metrics are met and another 21.5% said they have additional concerns even if the metrics are met. Thirty-seven percent say they don’t need to wait. 

McLeod said he would hope and appreciate that teachers do the best they can to figure out ways to make this work.

→  Get The Latest News On COVID-19 In Arizona 

Rocio Hernandez was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2022.