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Recent 'significant upswing' in COVID-19 cases, AJUSD superintendent says

Apache Junction Unified School District has three elementary schools, a junior high school and a high school, above.
Apache Junction Unified School District has three elementary schools, a junior high school and a high school, above.
Arianna Grainey
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There has been an upswing in COVID-19 cases this year in the Apache Junction Unified School District as districts nationwide have battled with the more-contagious omicron variant.

“AJUSD has been significantly impacted recently by COVID. While we cannot say for certain what variant our staff and students are currently experiencing, we do know that we have seen a significant upswing in cases in 2022. This has impacted student attendance and has pushed us to be creative in how we cover classes,” AJUSD Superintendent Heather Wallace said. “We have had to reopen learning labs to allow for teachers who are home sick with COVID, but still feeling well enough to instruct, to teach their in-person students virtually. We have also had to ask our staff to cover classes during their prep hour when teachers are out.”

The district’s employees are dedicated to students’ success, Wallace said.

“We are seeing some very tired but very determined staff. We are grateful that we have a staff that cares deeply for the community and the students. They have dedicated themselves to the success of the students and have worked tirelessly to support their peers,” she said.

Because of outbreaks, there has been a recent influx of families requesting their students move to online instruction, she said.

“We currently have just over 130 online students in grades 6-12 and 45 K-5 students fully online, with another 20 K-5 who are temporarily online while managing their own COVID-positive results or need to quarantine due to exposure,” Wallace said.

“Our community, as a whole, has shown incredible resilience to get through this together. We appreciate the continued support of the families and encourage our families to test their students when symptoms arise and communicate with their child’s school,” she said.

The school district was notified of 39 COVID-19 cases the week of Jan. 2 and there were a total of 86 cases as of Jan. 12, for a total of 125 cases reported to so far in 2022, Wallace said.

For the entire fall 2021 semester, a total of 332 cases were reported to the district, she said.

The COVID-19 dashboard on the district’s website at ajusd.org/Page/13576 has been frozen since Dec. 6 because the employee assigned to update it has left the district.

“Unfortunately our director of communications moved to a new position outside the district and we have been working to delegate those responsibilities. We do track numbers internally, and that has been maintained so we hope to have the dashboard updated by Monday, Jan. 17. Principals have continued to notify families of positive cases to ensure parents are aware of COVID cases at each site,” Wallace said.

AJUSD has three elementary schools, a junior high school and a high school. The district encompasses 217 square miles from Meridian Road on the west to the town of Queen Valley on the east and from the Goldfield Mountains to the north, south into the San Tan Corridor. Communities served include Apache Junction, Gold Canyon, Peralta Trail, Queen Valley and unincorporated Pinal County land in-between.

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