With no plan from state leaders, Arizona’s school districts confront hard choices on COVID-19

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Parents painted a bleak picture of their children in virtual school at a recent Madison School Board meeting in Phoenix. A middle school student told the board he learns better with his friends nearby. A father said his daughters fell behind academically in isolation. A mother lamented that her daughter became withdrawn while learning in front of a computer screen.”It’s just really heartbreaking to see a 5-year-old exhibit symptoms of depression,” she said. The pleas to keep schools open at the meeting bore striking similarities to those made in August over reopening schools for the first time since March.With cases rising throughout the state, school leaders across Arizona once again find themselves wedged between the parents who want schools to stay open and teachers who, concerned for their own health, want them closed.Those at the Madison meeting mourned Nawai Kalai, a district employee who worked with special education students and who died Nov. 1 after testing positive for COVID-19.Board members and superintendents say the decisions they’re confronted with come with little support or counsel from Gov. Doug Ducey and other state leaders, while they face mounting pressure from parents and teachers. What has evolved since August is …

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