Local school districts react to Governor’s “soft closure” for K-12

UPDATE: Life Skills and Preschool classes in the Cache County School District are now suspended. In a statement from the Cache County School District Monday morning, “in addition to the general student population, life skills and preschool students will not be attending school during the two-week school dismissal from March 16-27.” On Friday, the Cache District had originally intended to continue to offer those classes but on Monday morning announced they would be suspended through March 27.

LOGAN – The last 48 hours have been a whirlwind for Logan School District Superintendent Frank Schofield as he and other education administrators throughout the state of Utah determine how to respond to the coronavirus.

“This is not a situation that in my time as an educator I ever expected to be dealing with,” Schofield said Friday. “There is a lot of new to this, a lot of new procedures, a lot of new things to consider. I’m sure there will continue to be a number of new things as we work through the scenario and we continue evaluate how to best respond to it.”

Friday afternoon, Governor Gary Herbert, along with State Superintendent of Public Education Sydnee Dickson, ordered a “soft closure” of all public schools for Kindergarten through 12th grade. Classes will be suspended beginning March 16 and continue through March 27th. In response, both the Logan and Cache County school districts will use additional teacher development days on Monday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 17 to organize distance learning for their students.

ONLINE LEARNING

Tim Smith, public information officer for the Cache County School District, said the Cache district saw Friday’s announcement as imminent.

“About three days ago we made the decision to take Friday, which was our (personal development) day today, to have all of our teachers in both elementary and secondary (schools) prepare online materials,” Smith said, “for the eventuality that we would be closing schools, or at least providing education for students who were excluded from schools. We knew this was an eventuality and we did our best to prepare for it. Now we’ll have Monday and Tuesday as two additional preparation days to continue to prepare.”

Middle school and high school students will be provided online materials through Canvas – an online system most teachers are already using at those schools – but there are some unique challenges for elementary schools.

“For our elementary students, we are going to be providing access to digital content,” Schofield explained, “but it will be more of an opportunity to practice information they have already learned, to keep their skills fresh. Then teachers will be putting together packets that parents and children can pick up in a drive through type setting at the school so they won’t have to come into the building or get out of their vehicles.”

Not having students in school does not mean the school calendar will need to change and make up days will not need to be added.

“The information we worked through with the state board of education today was that they would allow us to have Monday and Tuesday as preparation days,” Smith explained. “We would continue with our online instruction and, when we were able to, we would pick up our school and run through the end of the school year as our calendar is now built.”

SCHOOL LUNCH

  • Lunch will be available to students using a grab and go system. Beginning Wednesday, March 18th, staff will be available to distribute a sack lunch to students at each elementary school from 10:00 am -11:00 am. Students can obtain their meal at the elementary school geographically closest to them. Students must be present to receive a lunch. This will be done through a drive through grab and go system. Drive through routes will be posted on each school’s website by Tuesday evening (March 17).  There will also be a walk up line for those who will be walking to the schools.

LIFE SKILLS FOR SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENTS AND PRESCHOOL

Life skills and preschool classes were originally going to continue in the Cache County School District. Those classes have now been suspended through March 27.

Those classes will not be offered in the Logan School District.

“We will not be providing instructional services for students at this time,” Schofield said. “There are two main reasons for that. The biggest one is simply we don’t have a space to provide care for students. If one of the things we’re doing is trying to prevent congregating of students, then we really won’t have a way to bring students into schools without worrying about the possible spread of infections.

“The other reason is we hope everyone will be exercising social distancing. Obviously, we can’t guarantee that they will. If a child comes into our school and has been exposed to COVID-19 and they bring that into their interaction with a special needs teacher or speech language pathologist, there is a possibility it will be transferred to that employee. As that employee works with other students in a one-on-one learning environment, there is a chance for that to be transmitted back. Because we are such a small, close-knit, tightly interconnected community, as soon as that starts getting spread between individuals, it has a chance to continue to mushroom. For those two reasons we will not be providing instructional services for those students, but we will provide food services for those students who need it.”

AFFECTS ON EXTRA CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES

  • All extracurricular activities, including athletic practices, games, after school clubs, drivers education, rehearsals and performances are suspended during this time.

PREVENTATIVE MEASURES

No cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Cache County, so all of these actions are preventative to limit the potential spread of the virus. While students are away, schools in the Logan City School District will be deep cleaned and sanitized.

“We just want parents and students to know this is proactive, this is preventative,” Schofield added. “For parents, when your students are home this is a reminder that this is not ‘let’s go hang out with our friends in the neighborhood’ time. We should still be practicing social distancing. We will be practicing that at school. We’re encouraging all of our staff to do that. As we do that, we just encourage parents and students to remember that we still need to be practicing it when we are in our homes and in our neighborhoods.”

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

AUDIO: Interview with Logan City School Superintendent Frank Schofield

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