Five Ways The Pandemic Has Shaped The Future of Education In Utah

Mar 29, 2021, 10:25 PM | Updated: Mar 30, 2021, 10:06 am

FARMINGTON, Utah – The disruptions to traditional education caused by the pandemic will have a lasting impact on Utah schools. Educators and researchers believe five of the lessons learned are here to stay.

That’s a good thing for the Eddington family in Farmington.

Online first grade went so well, Lydia Eddington would like to stay home next year, too.

“I like how it has been online,” she said.

She’s in good company. Davis Connect, the online option for the Davis County School District, exploded from a capped enrollment of 100 students in the summer to 6,100 students by fall.

The Eddington family has enjoyed the flexibility of online learning. (KSL-TV)

The school went from one full-time teacher to more than 100.

“There’s no way it’s going away,” said principal Stephanie Mouritsen.

Online Education

Online learning is one COVID-19 contingency that will become an option even after the pandemic passes. Teachers climbed the steep learning curve to create engaging lessons, with Zoom technology and mute buttons.

“In the future, there is a way to make it work and be extremely successful for all types of personalities,” said teacher Mindy Simon.

Teacher Mindy Simon has found creative ways to engage her online first grade class. (KSL-TV)

She built connections with her class through home visits, even attending birthday parties and dance recitals. The efforts helped. By mid-year, her class went from 37% of students on grade level to almost 80%.


A related change that will now also become more permanent: flexibility.

Kimberly Eddington wants to be able to work school around doctor appointments and family vacations, even when her children go back to school in-person.

“It’s so different than it was in the past. It was public school or home school. And now having the online option, it is just flexible,” she said.

In a survey conducted by the Jordan School District, 78% of parents told school leaders they now want the school week to be four days, with Fridays online.

That could potentially be possible, now that the Utah State Board of Education recently voted to give districts flexibility in how they meet minimum requirements for instruction time.

“What online education does, is frees up students and districts and schools to offer new ways of earning credit,” said Mark Peterson, USBE director of public relations.

Tech Equity     

With all the new technology needed for online schools, tech equity has become a huge concern. Nowhere is this more evident than in the San Juan County School District.

Never mind computers, fewer than 25% of students on the Navajo Nation even had access to the internet.

“Internet is definitely something that’s not taken for granted here,” said Assistant Superintendent Christy Fitzgerald.

The district has spent $5 million in federal CARES Act money to install infrastructure – towers, receivers and radio transmitters – which connect the school through a relay that goes over mesas and finally to the student’s house. Dozens of these towers will connect 500 homes, which means 90% of students on the reservation will eventually have equal access.

The district has spent $5 million in federal CARES Act money to install infrastructure – towers, receivers and radio transmitters – which connect the school through a relay that goes over mesas and finally to the student’s house. (KSL-TV) The district has spent $5 million in federal CARES Act money to install infrastructure – towers, receivers and radio transmitters – which connect the school through a relay that goes over mesas and finally to the student’s house. (KSL-TV)

“This is a total game changer. This is really the silver lining of all that we’ve been going through during the pandemic,” said Fitzgerald.

Summer School & Other Options For Lost Learning

One less-exciting change, at least for students: summer school.

Addressing learning loss is one of the top priorities for the Utah State Board of Education, and summer school is one of the ways districts will do it.

Several districts are working and budgeting for learning opportunities over the break. In the Salt Lake City School District, for example, summer school will be robust and in-person.

Emotional Well-Being

Another priority highlighted by the pandemic is the emotional well-being of students. Going forward, ensuring that well-being will be a lasting standard that schools are working to ensure.

For example, the Washington County School District budgeted zero dollars for social and emotional needs just a few years ago. The district led the state with the advent of school “wellness rooms,” and with new counselors, the district plans to spend $1.5 million this year.

The past year has pointed to smaller changes which are also here to stay. Going forward, schools will have little reason to cancel classes on snow days, for example. And hand sanitizing will hopefully remain a frequent practice.

Clearly, the impacts of the pandemic on student learning will be with us for a long time, but education leaders called it an opportunity.

“Right now, we can take advantage of where we are and propel into the future to do some things we’ve never done before. If we don’t take advantage of that, it would be tragic, really,” said Mouritsen.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories


Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City is pictured on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret N...
Dan Rascon

New bill would add state auditor to oversee funding of school voucher program

A controversial school voucher bill that passed the House and Senate, and was signed by the governor, is expected to get a new set of eyes to help follow the money trail.
22 hours ago
Michael Houck

Sunday Edition: School Voucher, Abortion, Transgender Surgery Bills

This week on Sunday Edition, Doug dives into a number of controversial bills that have sailed through the legislature during the first few weeks of this year's legislative session.
22 hours ago
Adam Small, KSL NewsRadio

Alpine schools investigating ‘suspicious’ computer activity

People in the Alpine School District are dealing with a tech headache connected to what they describe as a computer security issue.
22 hours ago
(Dan Rascon/KSL TV)...
Dan Rascon

Alleged fraud committed by top leaders at Layton Christian Academy

Church leaders and teachers at Layton Christian Academy are in tears over an alleged “massive fraud” operation at their school possibly involving millions of dollars.  
2 days ago
a soccer ball is kicked into the goal net...
Adam Small, KSL NewsRadio

Non-public-school students could more easily play sports under a new bill

A bill working its way through the Utah Legislature could open the door for online, private, charter, and homeschool students to play sports outside of their home district.
2 days ago
Shara Park

How a Utah bill would put cell phones, smart devices on hold in the classroom

Utah could soon be the first state with a law restricting cell phone and smart watches on students in K-12 classrooms. KSL spoke with teachers and students at a Utah high school with a no-phone policy already in place to see what they think.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
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: Take this Quiz 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.
Five Ways The Pandemic Has Shaped The Future of Education In Utah