Utah government officials monitoring the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have asked local school districts to find ways to educate students at home beginning next week. The school dismissal decision was announced Friday by the Utah COVID-19 Task Force, the Utah Department of Health, and the Utah Association of Local Health Departments.
Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox leads the state task force and says a decision to dismiss K-12 classes for two weeks supports statewide efforts to keep large groups from gathering. He reminds parents that students are not being quarantined.
“That is not what we are talking about right now,” Cox says. “We still want you to go on walks to the park. We still want you to go do the things you need to do. We are just avoiding these large gatherings.”
Utah State Board of Education Superintendent Sydnee Dickson says local school districts administrators are working with educators to assess needs and resources, including student access to home computers for lessons and assignments. She says they have been asked to develop plans to address the following in each school:
- Child nutrition. Schools are to provide meals to students who need them. Especially for those students who rely on school meals. We imagine this turning into a ‘grab and go’ system, where it is needed.
- Continuing services for students with disabilities.
- One-on-one or small group tutoring, where it is needed.
- Continuing instruction. Schools will implement online instruction, off-line instruction, or a combination of both. If a school is already online, they should continue business as usual.
- Staggering pick-up of school work, books, or other items needed by students to take home for the 14-days, in order to increase social distancing. Schools should not direct kids to rush in and clear out their lockers.
- Utilize and pay all employees, regardless if their role is directly related to instruction.
Issuing a dismissal rather than closing schools gives school district administrators and health officials time to assess risks, according to Cox, who says local health officers have the option to close schools if necessary. In the meantime, state funding to support schools will continue until the official end of the school year.