Utah Schools Rush To Distribute Computers As Soft Closure Begins

Mar 16, 2020, 6:12 PM | Updated: 9:24 pm

WEST JORDAN, Utah — Classrooms across Utah were empty as teachers prepared to shift learning online and schools rushed to make sure students had the necessary technology for the two-week closure.

Gov. Gary Herbert said the “soft closure” is designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus by implementing social distancing.

“Teachers have up to two days to make plans to continue instruction,” said a statement from the governor. “Remote instruction will resume on Wednesday, March 18, at the latest, and may take many forms.”

At the end of the two weeks, the governor said the policy will be reassessed to determine whether the closure should continue.

“We’re going to school without going to school,” said Kim Searle, principal of Sunset Ridge Middle School in West Jordan. “We’ll do what we can to make this transition as easy as possible.”

Searle’s school invited students to show up at specific times on Monday to receive a Chromebook, charger and protective case.

Sunset Ridge Middle School officials invited students to the school Monday to pick up a computer and accessories before classes begin online later this week.

“She’s a little nervous,” parent Janae Rindlisbacher said about her daughter who’s in eighth grade. “We’re going to help her but I also work, so we’ve got to figure out how I can help her and then my husband works.”

Emotions varied among students who said they still have a lot of questions about how the closure will work and what their teachers will expect from them.

“I was kind of mad because I’d rather be in the class rather than being at home doing it,” Rindlisbacher’s daughter, Megan, said about switching to remote learning. “I can’t like actually raise my hand and say, ‘Hey, I need help.”

Jordan School District officials said they are well prepared for online learning and that students should embrace the opportunity to try something new.

“This is a time where we’re doing something a little bit different,” said Ross Menlove, the district’s digital learning consultant. “If a kid wants to wake up early in the morning and get it done in the morning, they can do that. If a kid wants to wait until late at night, they can do that. There’s no limitation of when they can and can’t do — that’s the joy of doing it online.”

And just because it’s online, Menlove said that doesn’t mean that kids need to be glued to the computer or other electronic devices all day.

Students began checking out computers for the state’s two-week soft closure on Monday.

“We’ve been encouraging teachers to use technology to distribute and get the information out there,” he said. “But that their activities can involve things at home, it can involve going outside, going out and reading a book.”

School officials readily admitted this is uncharted territory, but students should see it as a chance to innovate.

“Our school motto is, ‘Be Fearless,’” Searle said. “Be fearless. Get on. Try stuff. Maybe you’re going to come up with a new, really cool way to provide information to your teacher or to demonstrate your learning.”

School districts also spent Monday making sure students have internet access at home. Comcast announced that low-income families could be eligible for two months of free internet through its Internet Essential program.

The company also announced that its network of Xfinity WiFi hotspots will be available to everyone for free for the next 60 days.

Coronavirus Resources

How Do I Prevent It?

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

The CDC does not recommend wearing a face mask respirator to protect yourself from coronavirus unless a healthcare professional recommends it.

How To Get Help

If you’re worried you may have COVID-19, you can contact the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 to speak to trained healthcare professionals. You can also use telehealth services through your healthcare providers.

Additional Resources

If you see evidence of PRICE GOUGING, the Utah Attorney General’s Office wants you to report it. Common items in question include toilet paper, water, hand sanitizer, certain household cleaners, and even cold medicine and baby formula. Authorities are asking anyone who sees price gouging to report it to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 or 800-721-7233. The division can also be reached by email at

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Utah Schools Rush To Distribute Computers As Soft Closure Begins