Remembering A Pandemic-Altered School Year

Dec 28, 2020, 10:26 PM | Updated: 11:06 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Few things affected Utah families more during the past year than changes in our schools. There were lessons for all of us.

The announcement from Gov. Gary Herbert clear back in March would set off a year of constant change. It has been tough, but not always negative.

“Schools are going to close for a few weeks,” Herbert announced on March 17.

That sent many families and schools into a tailspin. In a moment, life as we knew it changed.

“I just want to see my friends,” eighth-grader Matisse Hasler said through tears. “It’s just so hard.”

Classes weren’t the only thing canceled. The Utah High School Activities Association canceled spring sports and schools canceled activities.

We never dreamed it would extend to graduation, but it did. Schools were determined to do something to honor their seniors. Some ceremonies were solo walkthroughs and others drive-through. “It’s a little bit different but I’m happy I was still able to walk and got to have some sort of graduation,” said one high school graduate.

As schools scrambled to prepare for fall, students got new marching orders. “We’ve literally take every rule and every protocol and rewritten it to keep students and our staff members safe,” said one assistant principal.

Masks were required, schools put up plexiglass barriers for desks and students maintained social distancing. Sometimes schools were forced into hybrid learning with online classes and contact tracing.

Students adapted to schools opening and closing based on the number of positive cases reported.

All the while, teacher frustration over health concerns and workload reached a boiling point. A reporter asked a teacher, “After hearing all of this, a lot of people would ask you, why do you do this?”

“That’s a really good question. It’s for the kids. It’s for my students,” the teacher cried.

The state would recognize their efforts by offering all in-person teachers a $1,500 bonus and bumping them up near the front of the line for COVID-19 vaccinations.

By next year, all schools, even those in Salt Lake City, will offer some form of in-person learning. New protocols will mean fewer quarantines.

With vaccines, there is a hope to return to “normal.” But with all we’ve learned through the pandemic, in some ways, schools will never go back.

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Remembering A Pandemic-Altered School Year