Back to Class? KSL Has Pandemic School Plans From Across The State

Jul 13, 2020, 11:24 PM | Updated: 11:26 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – School starts in just about a month and school districts are getting bombarded with questions and recommendations about how to reopen safely amid the pandemic.

“We’re hearing from a lot of parents on both sides, that they really want their children back in school,” said Jeff Haney, spokesperson for Canyons School District. “And then, of course, we’re hearing from parents who said, ‘You know, I still have some concerns.’”

The Utah State Board of Education requires each of Utah’s 41 school districts to submit a plan by August 1.

With interest so high, many have been releasing draft plans in advance to gather parent feedback.

“We want our parents to know that we’re listening,” said Steven Dunham, spokesperson for the Washington School District.

Plans Across The State

KSL’s COVID-19 Impact Education team reached out to every district in Utah to see how well their plans meet the priorities thousands of parents and teachers outlined in our exclusive poll conducted at the beginning of the summer.

Every district told us they are still finalizing their plan. Some would release only a few details until they make their plans public. Still, several themes emerged.

  • Every district but one plans to reopen for some form of in-person school. Since Salt Lake City remains at orange or moderate risk for COVID-19, instruction for the Salt Lake City District will take place online until the risk level changes.
  • Every district plans to offer parent flexibility, with options for fulltime in-person instruction and learning only from home. Some districts also plan to offer a blended model.
  • Every district will spend millions of dollars on sanitizing and hygiene supplies.
  • No district was planning to require masks for students — until Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued a mandate last week. Now they all will, with some flexibility.

“I recognize that for those in kindergarten it may be a bigger challenge to wear a mask,” said Herbert. “Make sure we use common sense application of this mandate.”

PANDEMIC PLANS: See each district’s plan for the fall using the search bar at the end of the article

Those themes emerged because many districts conducted their own parent surveys before developing their plans.

“It drew a significant amount of responses, more than we anticipated,” said Dunham.

Most districts saw strong parental support to return to school.  For example, 67 percent in Provo, 88 percent in Millard, 77 percent in Tooele and 95 percent in Canyons said they wanted their kids back in the classroom.

In Washington County, 46 percent of parents said they’d send kids back “no matter what” with “few reservations.”

Ogden, likewise, found 51 percent of parents would send their kids back regardless.

COVID-19 School Safety Guidelines

Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers For Disease Control suggests when kids do come back, social distancing is “fundamental.”

But the Utah State Board of Education has already acknowledged that the standard six feet of space between desks “is not feasible for most Utah classrooms.”

That left many Utah schools looking at staggered schedules or blended learning options in case they are needed.

“Other ways that we can schedule are still being discussed, but for the most part, we’re focusing on learning in person,” said Haney.

Still, most districts are planning on the bulk of education happening in person and in the classroom.

A preliminary plan for a staggered schedule was tabled by the Uintah School District after resistance from parents.

“If you’re that worried, choose to home school you kids,” testified one parent.

“Let the parents decide because they’re ultimately responsible for these kids,” said another.

For both parents and teachers, keeping the classrooms and hallways free from germs is a priority, and that will happen.

Several districts have dedicated planning and funding to hose efforts.

  • Granite District has spent $1.6 million on hand sanitizer, masks and cleaning equipment.
  • Canyons spent $800,000 on similar equipment.

In addition, parents in Ogden and San Juan County said they wanted daily temperature checks.

Tooele County and Washington County parents prioritized supervised handwashing.

And the Davis School District will spend $350,000 on face masks.

What is missing from these plans?

Teachers have increasingly felt schools are listening to parents, but less to their own health concerns.

“What are they doing to protect teacher health?” asked Danny Drew, a teacher in the Jordan School District. “You give me 35 students in a classroom, I’m going to hide in the back and try to stay away from them and do the best I can with teaching. That’s terrible teaching.”

Drew was relieved when the governor mandated everyone in schools wear masks.

K-12 students, faculty and staff will be required to wear masks under an executive order signed by Gov. Herbert.

He and many other teachers now want to see how districts handle requests from high-risk teachers to work from home.

Districts like Jordan and Canyons are working to have high-risk teachers teach online students.

For all the plans and recommendations across our big state, one thing has become clear to district leaders as they finish work on their plans ahead of the state’s August 1 deadline.

“We know not everyone can be happy,” said Bryce Dunford, president of the Jordan District School Board. “So, we’ve tried to find a compromise that is the best for everyone.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories


A new U of U hopes to expand it's diversity....
Erin Cox

New Latina dean hopes to help the University of Utah in efforts to become Hispanic serving institution

One of Utah’s largest universities has plans to become a Hispanic Serving Institution, the first of its kind here in Utah.
1 day ago
Non-profit workers preparing lunches for students....
Tamara Vaifanua

Local nonprofit provides lunches for Salt Lake County students

"We’re packing constantly," local nonprofit USANA Kids Eat is trying to fill the growing need for feeding students.
1 day ago
Denali Stubbs, preparing his bike for the upcoming race....
Alex Cabrero

Hildale high school bike team participates in regional race

"I just want to do the same for these kids:” a Hillside parent hopes to encourage teens in his community to dream bigger by getting involved in sports.
3 days ago
FILE (Photo by Leonardo Fernandez Viloria/Getty Images)...
Tamara Vaifanua

Year-round scholarships help with rising college costs

With high inflation, it’s tricky for families with college-bound students to find enough money in their budget to cover the rising costs.
4 days ago
Debbie Worthen

Father outraged over ‘lack of security’ at high school

A father in Granite School District is outraged over what he calls a “lack of security” at Olympus High School.
6 days ago
Zachary Crane and Gabriella Arnold, two students who had their tests destroyed....
Debbie Worthen

High school students retake AP tests after school mix-up destroyed them

Two dozen Green Canyon High School students in North Logan won’t get credit for AP tests they took last May as the tests were mistakenly destroyed in transit.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Back to Class? KSL Has Pandemic School Plans From Across The State