PINETOP-LAKESIDE — Three elementary students tested positive for COVID-19 Monday, Sept. 14.

The students are siblings and contact tracing has already been conducted by Navajo County Public Health and the school district.

School update

Visit to view the Blue Ridge Unified School District reopening plan phases, precautions and protocol relating to COVID-19.

All three students were receiving on-site services at school. The district was notified of the test results by Navajo County Public Services then began notifying parents and staff.

The students are quarantining at home since they are members of the same family.

“We notified everyone that may have been in close contact with those students while they were on campus,” said Blue Ridge Unified School District #32 Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael L. Wright. “We also notified those that may have come into contact that was not defined as ‘close contact.’”

Close contact is described as having exposure to the symptomatic individual within six feet and for a prolonged period of time (typically longer than 15 minutes).

Prior to school opening in August, the district developed a detailed plan for resuming instruction. The plan has three phases which the district can move forward or backward through, as needed. The plan is designed to minimize spread of the virus and follows existing state and federal Centers for Disease Control guidelines such as social distancing, hand-washing, wearing cloth face coverings, daily health screenings, etc.

The Blue Ridge school district has been in an online only phase since opening in August.

There are exceptions for students with special needs or students that need access to on-site services that can’t be accessed from home. The three students that tested positive were on campus for some of those on-site services. The district began notifying staff and parents of the confirmed tests the same day Navajo County notified them.

Employees or students who have developed COVID-19 symptoms or had a positive COVID-19 test may not return to the site until at least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery or the individual has received negative results of an authorized COVID-19 test. (Refer to BRUSD Plans for Resuming Instruction at for details.)

Phase II began Sept. 16

The school district meets criteria for Phase II of their reopening plan. Phase two is the hybrid model with two days per week of face-to-face learning and three days per week of online learning.

“We had been online only but now we are implementing the hybrid learning model,” said Dr. Wright. “We understand that some parents would like us to go completely in-person, face-to-face learning right now but the hybrid model is our next step.”

(Approximately 15 to 20% of students have chosen to remain in the online only model of learning for the entire year. The other 80 to 85% of students will be moving to the Phase II hybrid model described below.)

Reopening Phases

Phase I in the district’s plan is “online only” school. In this phase all school facilities remain closed to public use.

Phase II began Sept. 16. This is the hybrid model which means students attend in-person for face-to-face learning for two days a week. They stay home for online learning for the other three days a week. During phase two, only students and individuals participating in an approved extracurricular activity or school program are permitted on District facilities.

“During Phase II of our return to school, our hybrid schedule reduces class sizes as much as possible within the constraints of the number of students enrolled and the physical layout of the school or facility,” states page 4 of the plan.

The hybrid model allows for staggered school attendance. “Depending on the size of the facility or room, classes will have no more than 20-50 individuals assigned at any given time during the day, including teachers and instructional aides,” states the plan.

Phase III is face-to-face instruction which allows for a complete return to in-person instruction and all school activities. This phase will not be implemented until it is determined safe to do so, according to the district’s plan for reopening.

The letter published Tuesday, Sept. 15 by Superintendent Wright can be viewed as a link attached to the online story at

The letter explains the district’s steps following the confirmed cases and is can also be viewed on the district website at Click on “District News” and select COVID Update — Parent/Student Expectations, District Procedures/Protocols.

Reach the reporter at

Laura Singleton is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering Show Low city government, business and education.

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