NUSD schools such as Lincoln Elementary are slated to host on-campus classes starting in October.

The Nogales Unified School District is planning to bring students back to class as part of a hybrid instructional model beginning on Oct. 19, Superintendent Fernando Parra said.

The plan calls for students to combine distance learning with two days of in-person instruction per week. However, parents who prefer to keep their children in an online-only program will have that option as well, Parra wrote in a letter to NUSD community members that was posted Thursday evening.

His announcement came hours after the Arizona Department of Health Services released benchmark data showing Santa Cruz County meeting all three recommended standards for returning to in-person instruction. It was the first time the county attained the standing.

“I want to let you know that this decision and recommendation is being made with the best and safest interest in mind for all of our NUSD staff, students, families and our entire school community,” Parra wrote. “I appreciate your understanding and support as we continue confronting this very difficult situation, taking the best steps possible to prepare and transition to the reopening of schools and programs.”

A free COVID-19 testing blitz for all employees and students will be held before in-person instruction begins in October, he said.

The NUSD return-to-campus plan is on the agenda for the school board meeting set for 4 p.m. on Monday. Sept. 14. The meeting is closed to the pubic, but the district said it would be shown on Mediacom Channel 10 and on YouTube.

So far, the Sonoita Elementary School District, which operates the K-8 Elgin School, is the only district in the county to resume in-person classes. Patagonia Schools have targeted Sept. 28 as their start date for a staggered return to campus, while the Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District is planning to begin hybrid in-person/distance learning on Oct. 12.

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