Mesa parents slate protest for open campuses The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Mesa parents slate protest for open campuses

Mesa parents slate protest for open campuses

By Zach Alvira
Tribune Staff Writer

Disappointed by Gov. Doug Ducey’s decision to give school districts most of the control in  reopening campuses, some Mesa parents are moving forward with plans to hold a demonstration this week outside the State Capitol.

Becca Clarkson, a mother of four who taught in the Mesa school district for eight years, has been part of the team organizing a petition to reopen schools that has gained traction in recent weeks and has received nearly 6,000 signatures.

Clarkson and Laura Crandell, a mother of Mesa Public Schools students, organized the AZ Open our Schools Demonstration earlier last week – before Ducey’s Thursday press conference in which he announced certain health benchmarks will be released Aug. 7 as a guide for district officials in deciding when to allow classroom instruction.

Clarkson said she and the other parents had hoped Ducey wouldn’t push a reopening date beyond the original Aug. 17 deadline he had set earlier this month.

His decision to let districts decide, Clarkson said, still doesn’t give parents an option to have their children return to classrooms as quickly as they would like.

“We are going to move forward with our plans at the state capitol,” Clarkson said. “While Gov. Ducey isn’t necessarily pushing things back, we know there will be some benchmarks that we are still unaware of.

“Until we see what those look like,” she said, “we want to let those who are making decisions on our behalf know that we are comfortable and able to assess the risk and assume the risk.”

Crandell has marketed the demonstration on both Facebook and through text message. The event, which is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, July 28 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., has piqued the interest of nearly 600 people on Facebook alone.

Crandell, with help from Clarkson and others, initially launched her petition after Gov. Doug Ducey delayed in-classroom learning until at least Aug. 17.

Crandell, whose 5-year-old daughter is set to attend Sousa Elementary School in the fall, shares the same sentiment that parents should be able to decide whether or not to send their kids to schools without any further delays.

Both Crandell and Clarkson said while highlighting the negative effects on one’s health the virus can cause, it’s also important to acknowledge the psychological effects it has had on families and children who haven’t been affected.

Clarkson said her own kids have experienced anxiety since the initial shutdown of schools last March, mostly in part due to the online learning atmosphere she believes was not up to par compared to in-person learning.

Even as Mesa Public Schools and other districts have vowed a smoother remote learning environment for all grade levels, she feels those negative effects aren’t being addressed.

“Public schools have been a safe place for many of our kids and families for centuries,” Clarkson said. “Parents from all demographics feel safer knowing their kids are at schools. I feel like how the school shutdowns affect people negatively isn’t being discussed as much as it should be.”

Several districts, even before his announcement on Thursday, had already said they don’t plan to have in-person learning until at least October.

While no date has officially been set by Mesa Public Schools, Superintendent Andi Fourlis said during the July 14 governing board meeting she does not anticipate classroom options would be available by Aug. 17.

“I understand COVID is a concern for all of us,” Crandell said earlier this month. “But I feel like the decisions that are being made are out of an abundance of fear. Anyone who has been around kids knows they are going to benefit from being in person.”

Attendees at the demonstration can expect speeches from educators and parents in support of not delaying the start of in-person school.

Crandell also said there will be music to entertain attendees. She expects several to come-and-go throughout the event.

“It’s a way for us all to express a difference in opinion,” Crandell said. “This isn’t a parent versus teacher thing. Having different options only works if there are teachers that feel comfortable in the workplace.”

To learn more about the AZ Open our Schools Demonstration or to attend, visit the event Facebook page at ′

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