By Aisha Sander
Aug 14, 2020

The three schools in Eastern Santa Cruz County are continuing to adapt to the pandemic and the recent benchmarks set by the AZ dept. Of Health Services (AZDHS). Patagonia Public School is opening only as distance learning while providing the state mandated safe space on campus for students who have an essential need to attend school in person. Patagonia Montessori Elementary School (PMES) has decided to start the school year online while “offering onsite learning opportunities and student support services,” said PMES Principal Jessi Beebe. The Elgin Elementary School has already begun its school year online as of Aug 10. Mary Faley, the principal at Elgin said the school will opt for distance learning and provide onsite supervision and support services for registered students starting Aug 17.

Jeff Terrell, Santa Cruz County Director of Environmental Health Services, explained that the county still does not have all the test results from the three testing blitz sites with “50 tests still missing from our data.” With that caveat he said, “the Nogales blitz testing positivity rate was 4.3% and the combined testing positivity rate from Rio Rico and Patagonia sites was 1.8%.” However, he thinks that the testing positivity rate is not an appropriate metric to use as a benchmark and has been advocating for changing it with the state education and health departments. He said, “the benchmarks are guidelines, not requirements. If the schools have a good plan they can open.”

The state is updating its school dashboard every Thursday with data from the two previous weeks (not including the current week) Santa Cruz County’s most recent week updated on the school dashboard, for July 26, shows the testing positivity rate at 4.9%. If the county has a testing positivity rate under 7% for another week then it will have met all three of the benchmarks set by the state. Read more about the benchmarks here. https://patagoniaregionaltimes.org/restarting-in-person-school-benchmarks/