LOGAN – On Tuesday, Utah Governor Gary Herbert and State Superintendent of Public Education Sydnee Dickson announced that Utah students would remain dismissed from school through the end of the academic year to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Both superintendents of the Logan City and Cache County school districts were not surprised by the announcement.
“It wasn’t a total surprise, but I was a little taken aback by how much it hit me emotionally, the idea of us not getting students back for the rest of the year,” said Logan City School District Superintendent Frank Schofield. “Up to this point, our teachers, our principals have been working with the hope, in the back of our mind, that this would end and we would be able to get students back for the end of the year and wrap things up.”
“It just didn’t seem like, to us, it would have been a very prudent thing to have brought kids back into the crowded conditions we have in Utah schools,” Cache County Superintendent Steve Norton said. “I had been planning this direction all along. All of our efforts, so far, have been to go with this mode of instruction through the end of the year.”
The announcement means thousands of high school seniors will not only miss out on Senior Balls, yearbook signings, athletic and state competitions, but also miss out on a traditional graduation.
“We know our seniors, especially, were looking forward to some of those activities that happen only once in a lifetime,” Superintendent Norton added. “We really have a lot of empathy for those senior students and we are doing everything we can to come up with creative ideas to honor and support them, but recognize there will be some things postponed indefinitely and some things might just be postponed until later on when we can figure out an appropriate time to do the things we normally do to honor our students who have been with us and graduated from our system.”
Logan City School District is also exploring a variety of graduation options as well, from doing it virtually or delaying it until a suitable time when people can publicly gather again. And Superintendent Schofield wants it to still be big and unique.
“For a lot of us, graduation is just a rite of passage. For many students, it is a significant accomplishment that comes at the tail end of a lot of work,” Schofield explained. “A lot of those students are not going to get the normal celebration of that work that they would have this year. Even though it will look different, we’re going to try and make it big, because they’re not going to have the opportunity to walk across the Spectrum and have their family cheer for them and be recognized with all of their peers all in the same room.”
Tuesday’s announcement was not only difficult for graduating seniors to hear, but also for thousands of parents who will be asked to continue home-based learning for another six weeks. Both superintendents praised the teachers and staff throughout their districts for working closely with parents and checking in regularly with students.
“We know that this whole situation of having instruction take place in the home was something that was not planned for, was not asked for by the parents,” Norton said. “We want them to know how much we appreciate the fact that they are partners with us to educate their children.”
Superintendent Norton said his district will continue to work with parents to find that appropriate balance of instruction and time out of the day needed for coursework.
School nutrition programs for both districts will continue through the end of the school year, with tens of thousands of daily grab-and-go lunches provided at the schools in both districts and along bus routes throughout the Cache County School District.
“(Bus drivers) are representing our school district to every corner of our school district, from Avon to Lewiston, to the Idaho border, all the way to the Wellsville Mountains to the mouth of Logan Canyon,” Norton added. “We think that has been one of the greatest opportunities for service we could give back to our patrons that could ever have happened.”
Tuesday’s announcement means spring trips and athletic events have been cancelled, and that has some students and parents concerned about fees that have already been paid. Both superintendents said all of their schools are reviewing each case and, where possible, full refunds will be issued to students and families.
“Our general approach has been that if individuals – students and families – pay a fee and the reason for that fee does not occur, then we are going to work to refund those funds to families,” Schofield explained.
The Logan High School choir had been planning for months to make a spring trip, requiring students and families to pay approximately $1,000 each for the trip to cover travel and participation expenses. Schofield explained that most of that money will be refunded.
“What we are trying to do is identify what expenses like the choir trip have parents had to make payments on. Then, if it’s something they will not be able to do, for example in the next year, that we start working on refunds. If, for example, the choir trip didn’t happen this year and they said ‘we’re going to have students who will still do the choir trip next year. Then for the students who will be participating we’ll hold on to the funds and apply it to next year’s trip.’ If that were a situation where a student graduated, then we would be looking at refunds for the families.”
Tim Smith, chief academic officer for the Cache County School District, said reimbursements for athletic fees and cancelled trips would also be happening in the Cache district.
“Most of the travel groups that we were working with, or the airlines, hotels, were very accommodating to cancel some of those things. Our parents were accommodating,” Smith said. “We do recognize that there will be some reimbursements, and those will vary by activity.”