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The COVID Impact: How Your Child’s School May Look Different This Fall

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – While most Utah parents are still focused on distance learning right now, educators are already looking to fall.

They have a lot to figure out over the summer to ensure students and educators are safe. Will kids return to classrooms? And if so, what will schools look like? Several contingency plans are on the table.

Schools already have new supply lists.

“We have ordered 12,000 disposable masks,” said Jeff Haney, Canyons School District spokesperson. “For our front offices, we’ve ordered plexiglass.”

“We’ve bantered about the possibility of taking temperatures,” said Ben Horsley, spokesperson for Granite School District.

KSL reached out to school districts all over Utah. While they were waiting for guidance from the state, they can’t wait to make plans. Most are preparing for social distancing – not an easy task with Utah’s notoriously large class sizes.

The Math Of Social Distancing

The average high school class has 40 students. In order to keep the students six feet apart, schools would have to move out half of the desks, and it would ultimately require double the number of classrooms and teachers.

Desks marked with an ‘X’ would have to be removed to meet social distancing requirements in this classroom.

“That’s not feasible,” said Horsley.

So other ideas were on the table, such as split sessions that bring in half the students in the morning and half in the afternoon, or rotating days.

“It could be a blended format,” said Haney. “All of this is on the table.”

“That would help us minimize how many students we have in the building and the classroom,” agreed Steven Dunham, spokesperson for Washington County School District.

Crowding in the hallway was also a concern. Schools will stagger bell schedules so students can pass with more space.

Busing students to school could be more complicated.

“The reality is, you can’t socially distance in a school bus,” said Horsley.

“That might be one of our single biggest challenges,” agreed Dunham.

No One-Size-Fits-All

One thing is clear – the solutions won’t be one-size-fits-all.

Former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt now runs a health care consulting firm and works with schools all over the country.

“There are 14,000 school districts in America, and every one of them will have different circumstances and different challenges,” said Leavitt.

And he said schools will need to consider what classes they offer, based on risk and the nature of how COVID-19 spreads.

“If you’re talking, it’s possible you could spread the disease,” said Leavitt. “If you’re yelling, it’s more likely. If you’re singing, that’s a really big spreader, so should you have a chorus class?”

Lessons From Other Countries

Classrooms have started opening in several countries and schools in the United States will likely follow their lead.

Students in eastern China wear masks and social distancing hats that keep them from getting too close to their classmates.

Staff in Japan, China and Taiwan take students’ temperatures before they enter school.

In Denmark and Norway, classes are held outside if possible.

Many schools in Taiwan have assigned seats in the cafeteria to enforce social distancing.

The Centers for Disease Control has recommended U.S. schools close cafeterias altogether if possible.

“We’re going through a lot of discussion about how to deal with restaurants,” said Leavitt. “Well, a cafeteria is a lot like a restaurant.”

In the Granite School District, lunch will likely be eaten in classrooms as the CDC recommends.

The Davis School District has produced training videos on the importance of teachers wearing gloves and masks. No word yet if students will be required to do the same.

Every district we spoke to said they hope school sports return. Those decisions rest with the Utah High School Activities Association, which recently held a “productive meeting” with the governor to discuss spring and fall sports.

Distance Learning 2.0?

Leavitt advised schools to be prepared for a surge in coronavirus cases.

“I think it’s actually a likelihood, given that every pandemic over the last 100 years has had a second wave,” he said.

So, Utah families may not be able to close the laptop on distance learning quite yet.

To that end, the Washington County School District is working to improve distance learning materials.

“One of the things we’ve already learned is we need to develop online curriculum that’s stronger,” said Dunham.

Schools will spend the summer deep-cleaning buildings, some with new hospital-grade electrostatic sprayers.

They will also spend the next few months firming up plans for a pandemic that is largely unknown.

“It’s challenging, because we just don’t know where we’re going to be in the fall, but all of these issues need to be thought about right now,” said Haney.

“I know we’re eager to get those kids back to the classroom, so any way we can do that and still be safe and keep everyone safe, we’re looking for those opportunities,” said Horsley.


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 recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

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 consumerprotection@utah.gov.

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