Mingus Union to open campus Feb. 22

Thursday, the Mingus Union School Board voted to reopen school to in-person learning on Monday, Feb. 22. Pictured, Board Member Lori Drake, who voted against re-opening on Feb. 22. VVN/Bill Helm

Thursday, the Mingus Union School Board voted to reopen school to in-person learning on Monday, Feb. 22. Pictured, Board Member Lori Drake, who voted against re-opening on Feb. 22. VVN/Bill Helm

COTTONWOOD — Thursday, the Mingus Union School Board decided to reopen school to in-person learning Monday, Feb. 22.

The board’s 4-to-1 vote was influenced by two things, Board Member Chip Currie explained. One, the improving COVID-19 metrics. Two, Mingus Union educators are scheduled to receive their second COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 17.

“I felt pretty good about our decision,” Currie said Friday. “But I didn’t get much sleep last night.”

Currie said he believes one reason for improving COVID-19 metrics is that schools – such as Mingus Union – had taken safety protocols seriously.

“I looked at them as lower because we did what we did,” Currie said. “We didn’t come back when the pressure was on us. We followed the numbers. We made some really hard decisions, but you had to consider the greater good.”

Board Member Lori Drake voted against reopening on Feb. 22, she said, because she had wanted school to reopen its doors earlier.

“They need this, these walls,” Drake said. “When I say Feb. 22 is not good enough, it’s because of the children.”

With the board’s decision to reopen school to face-to-face learning, Superintendent Mike Westcott said that any student who wants to continue with remote learning may do so.

In his presentation to the board, Westcott cited estimated Moderna vaccine effectiveness is 80% at 14 days after the first dose, but 94% at 14 days after the second dose.

By Feb. 17, about 70% of Mingus Union’s in-school staff will be fully vaccinated, Westcott said.

According to Westcott, about 440 of the district’s students are enrolled in online learning, with teacher-led distance learning continuing for the remainder of district’s roughly 1,200 students.

Westcott also explained that studies indicate “no difference in the incidence of COVID-19 spread in counties with in-person learning vs. distance modes.”

Carol Lewis, health education section manager with Yavapai County Community Health Services, attended Thursday’s Mingus Union School Board meeting via Zoom. Lewis told the board that based on the schools that she has worked with, mostly K-8, there’s “not been a lot of transmission with students where the schools are following safety measures.”

“And your sports program, what you’re doing is exemplary,” she said. “With these safety plans, kids are safer at school than elsewhere. It comes down to the safety procedures in place.”

Through Feb. 19, Mingus Union’s remote learning plan has students in school Monday through Friday from 7:55 a.m. until 3 p.m., with teacher-led online instruction Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Students are in class through 12:35 p.m. From 12:35 p.m. until 3 p.m., students work on individual assignments, have study time, or can have virtual appointments with their counselor.

Wednesdays, also from 7:55 a.m. until 3 p.m., are reserved for intervention and teacher planning/training, or can be used for optional Zoom meetings in mathematics and English. Thirty minutes each Wednesday is scheduled advisory time.

Counselors are available all day on Wednesdays for virtual office hours.

While school is closed to in-person learning, Mingus Union has continued to provide onsite services, grab-n-go meals, and targeted student support on campus.

Valley Academy, Camp Verde, Beaver Creek, Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Sedona-Red Rock school districts are all open for both in-person and distance learning.

Tuesday, the Clarkdale-Jerome School Board voted to transition from its hybrid education model to a full in-person education program on Feb. 16. Clarkdale-Jerome students will also have the option to continue with distance learning.

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