Covid Crisis in Scottsdale Unified

Scott Menzel. Photo credit:

In a brutal setback to teachers, students, and parents alike, Scottsdale Unified School District Superintendent Scott Menzel is sounding alarm bells about the current state of Covid in Scottsdale schools. As of August 4th, there had been 78 confirmed cases on-campus, 150 symptomatic students sent home, and well over 600 that were in quarantine at that moment.

The full letter, which can be found here, is a disturbing wake-up call as schools are back in session across the state. Menzel brings up the possibility of returning to remote learning, which has been widely panned for its efficacy and criticized for putting additional burden on parents, but must be considered as a possibility as the delta variant rages across the country.

Menzel makes a point of mentioning that mask usage varies wildly throughout the district, with some schools having nearly no masked children and others at around 70-80% mask usage. While earlier studies showed that Covid had relatively little effect on children, the delta variant has flipped the script on that finding, as a record 1,900 children were in hospitals over the weekend as a result of their Covid infections.

With a tone that could be called “thinly restrained”, Menzel decries the political schism that the pandemic has caused, stating that Covid does not discriminate based on political inclinations. While Scottsdale has higher vaccination rates than nearly any other city in the valley, how much of those numbers are attributable to parents in the city as compared to senior citizens is less clear. Vaccination rates are higher with senior citizens than any other age group, so it is quite likely that there are many vaccination and mask-hesitant parents in this Republican-heavy city.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to deny that what should be purely a scientific and public health concern turned into a political one. Personal choice and freedom has turneve into a clarion call to continue to ignore the virus as the delta variant has sent case numbers on a steady rise upward over the last handful of weeks. While child hospitalizations due to Covid are still relatively rare, many of these same people don’t seem willing to acknowledge that anti-mask and anti-vaccine policies will hurt teachers, administrative staff, and those families themselves as the virus is brought home to them.

Superintendent Menzel has an incredibly difficult job at the moment. It is deeply unfortunate that so many parents seem determined to make it more difficult however. We echo his call to get vaccinated and use a mask in indoor settings, so we can get through this with as few casualties as possible.