Cache Valley schools navigate dismissal of Utah classes through academic year
The digital learning and homeschool hybrid initiated last month will continue through the end of the school year, as in-person classes at Utah public schools have been dismissed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
On Tuesday, during Gov. Gary Herbert’s daily COVID-19 press briefing, Herbert said students will finish the year doing mostly online assignments to avoid the risk of crowded classrooms.
“In order for us to continue to slow the spread and to get back on our feet socially and economically, this is not the time to have our schools back open,” Herbert said. “This is not an easy decision to make. It is disruptive and it impacts our children, parents and families.”
Both Cache County and Logan City school districts are navigating what this announcement means for teachers, students and especially the graduating seniors.
“I don’t think this was a surprise to any of us. We have been preparing for this eventuality for the last few weeks as we have transitioned to an online, remote learning environment,” said Tim Smith, the chief information officer of Cache County School District. “We are most concerned about our seniors. We want to help them make this a positive thing in their experience as they finish up with us.”
Smith said they hope to have some kind of celebration at the end of the school year, which is May 29. They just don’t know exactly how that is going to look yet.
Frank Schofield, the superintendent of Logan City School District, said he is meeting with the high school administration later this week to discuss celebration details.
“We are going to work closely with our senior class officers and the senior graduating class to find out what experience they are looking for,” Schofield said. “We want to make sure that whatever we do for graduation is focused on addressing what type of experience they want.”
The conversations they had been having in the abstract for the past month are becoming a reality, and Schofield said they have to start figuring out everything from how to let the students gather their belongings to preparing for graduation.
“In the back of our minds we knew this was a likelihood but there was a hope that it wouldn’t happen,” Schofield said. “We wanted to come back at least for a little bit so we could do year-end celebrations.”
As far as the online classes go, both Schofield and Smith said it has been a learning curve for everyone, but overall it has been a good experience.
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“There have been some difficulties as teachers learn to teach online and parents learn to support that in their homes,” Smith said. “I think it has been a heavy lift for both groups, and we just appreciate the parents who have been partners with us in this. We are trying to improve on a daily basis.”
Smith said that teachers are even seeing some students flourish online because they are more willing to speak up on the online platform.
Schofield said this attention to the pros and cons of digital learning will help teachers long after this when have to be out of the normal classroom setting due to health issues or other circumstances.
For now, Schofield said he recognizes the strain on families of six more weeks of doing school from home and is sending around surveys for parents to fill out. The hope is that with more feedback, the administration and teachers can better provide support during this time.
“We are never going to call this the new normal because nothing about this is normal,” Schofield said. “But we are going to be flexible and our focus is going to be on helping the students develop attitudes and behaviors. We want them to learn that this is how you adapt to unforeseen challenges, this is how you respond positively. You make a plan and you adapt.”
Both school districts will continue their respective lunch programs, which have provided around 30,000 meals a day in each district, through the end of the year. Details about those programs and other efforts by the school districts can be found at www.loganschools.org and www.ccsdut.org
Utah public schools have been closed since March 16.
Halting in-person classes has cast thousands of parents in the role of home school teachers as they guide students through online assignments created by teachers who often organize daily video meetings with students to help.
About 667,000 children go to public schools in Utah, according to state figures.
Utah joined states such as Arizona, Oregon and Washington that had previously made the same decision to cancel classes.
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