Mingus Union continues online learning into January
COTTONWOOD — Through Jan. 8, Mingus Union High School will keep its campus closed in favor of distance learning.
Thursday, the district’s governing board voted 4-1 to continue with the online learning model it approved on Nov. 20.
Lori Drake, who voted against the motion in the Zoom meeting, said she would not be surprised to see Arizona Department of Health shut down schools because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But we should hold out as long as we can,” Drake said. “Most everyone who I have spoken with has said their children have struggled with online learning, both academically and socially. I believe it’s extremely important for the students to have the choice (to either attend or be online).”
Carol Lewis, community health education section manager at Yavapai County Community Health Services (YCCHS), told the board before its vote that County Health Director Leslie Horton has encouraged schools to remain open as long as they can.
“But we understand some schools have limited resources,” Lewis said. “Our county’s schools have been doing a great job. Although there are a lot of things we cannot control, we are all doing the best that we can. (Mingus Union) is doing a really good job.”
Lewis then told the board that County Health Services was looking forward to a Dec. 16 shipment of COVID-19 vaccine.
“Our emergency center is working on getting those out to first responders and to teachers," Lewis said. “Teachers are also first responders. I’m not sure which vaccine we’ll be getting. That’s really all I know.”
Barely 30 minutes into the meeting, Board Member Anthony Lozano motioned to continue with distance learning. His motion, however, was met with a desire for more discussion, and clearer wording.
“I advise discussion first, motion last,” District Superintendent Mike Westcott said. “Make sure the discussion has resolved itself.”
Board Member Chip Currie asked if people were suffering from COVID fatigue.
“How successful are we at getting teachers to follow?” Currie asked Principal Genie Gee.
According to Gee, Mingus Union has been “successful – for the first go-around of a world-wide pandemic.”
“Wearing a mask is still a relatively new concept,” Gee said. "It’s not been perfect, but they’re doing a pretty good job.”
As of Dec. 3, current and predicted COVID-19 health benchmark data indicate that all three metrics are “in the substantial spread category and will remain there for the foreseeable future,” Westcott said.
In a letter Westcott wrote to the district’s staff and families shortly after Mingus Union’s vote, he stated that Arizona Department of Health Services safe return to in-person instruction document indicates the need for distance or remote learning when the benchmarks reach substantial spread for two consecutive weeks.
“We will continue the provision for onsite services, grab-n-go meals, and targeted student support on campus,” Westcott said.
Westcott also stated that Mingus Union currently has five COVID-19 positive staff, seven COVID-19 positive students, and 59 staff and students currently under quarantine. He stated that many absences while trying to manage in-person learning “would be very difficult to staff properly.”
“Though the high school age group makes up only about 7% of cases in Yavapai County, many of our staff and family members are in the more impacted age groups between 18-54, which comprise about 50% of all cases,” Westcott stated. “We believe we can play a role in reducing the community spread of COVID-19 by lessening the likelihood of exposure on our campus.”
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