Despite warnings, most K-12 schools will stay open

Mar 12, 2020, 6:40 PM
Utah Education Association calls to move many secondary schools online...
Online learning has been a challenge for many students, (West High School, Salt Lake City. Credit: Paul Nelson)
(West High School, Salt Lake City. Credit: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE COUNTY – If universities across the state are moving to online classes to prevent the spread of coronavirus, why are K-12 schools staying open, for the most part?  Educators say there is a massive ripple effect that comes from shutting a school down, and it’s not a decision that should be taken lightly.

As of Thursday afternoon, the only school district that decided to close was the Murray School District.  This happened after school officials say they learned about potential direct contact exposure to coronavirus and they’re closing classes out of “an abundance of caution.”  The district’s statement says, “students and teachers surrounding this potential direct contact have not exhibited signs or symptoms associated with COVID-19.”

However, this decision is not affecting other districts.

“We’re not going to simply close schools because another school district chose to do so,” says Granite School District Spokesman Ben Horsley.

Officials with the Utah State Board of Education say they don’t have the authority to mandate school closures.  That decision has to be made by districts with the input local health departments.  Even though Murray and Granite both work with the Salt Lake County Health Department, there were no instructions to close classes.

Horsley says, “The guidance was that schools do not need to close unless there is an imminent threat.  And, they gave us additional guidelines to follow to enact a closure.”

The Salt Lake City School District will also keep classes open, but they have decided to suspend all spring activities for two weeks.  Individual schools will decide if they want to cancel athletic practices, or not.

The Tooele County School District is cancelling all events and athletic practices until March 27.

The Alpine School District is shortening classes on March 16 and 17 so they can train teachers on what they need to do if the district cancels school and switches to online classes.

Even though the USBE can’t force schools to close due to the virus, Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson says there are things they can do to keep crowd sizes as small as possible.

“[During] recess, in lunchrooms, how can you minimize the size of the crowd in the school buildings?” she asks.

Dickson says they recommend staggering lunches and recess breaks, so there aren’t as many kids in one location at any given time.  Also, the board is recommending things like assemblies be cancelled for the next two weeks, as well as any out-of-state traveling.  Plus, they’re asking for help from the federal government to help ensure students are fed safely.

Dickson says, “We’ve petitioned the federal government to loosen up some of the federal food guidelines so we can offer grab-and-go lunches.”

However, she says closing a school is a drastic solution and it has a significant ripple effect that can hurt families.  Many families rely on schools to feed their children and many others don’t have any other form of daycare.

“We have a lot of working families with nobody to care for their children out of school during the day,” she says.

State epidemiologists say they still haven’t seen any evidence of the virus spreading from one person to another within the borders of Utah.

Today’s Top Stories


cline alpine board...
Lindsay Aerts

At Alpine school board meeting, Natalie Cline claims district allows porn in classrooms

Whether Cline, from the Utah Board of Education, can speak at the Alpine district meeting (where she doesn't reside) was questioned.
1 day ago
The wafer with the etched Book of Mormon on it, made by BYU students...
Samantha Herrera

BYU engineering students put ‘world’s smallest Book of Mormon’ on 4 inch disc

The entirety of the Book of Mormon is now on display on a gold-plated 4-inch disc in the Clyde Building at BYU. It'll last millions of years.
1 day ago
American Leadership Academy pictured....
Elizabeth Weiler

American Leadership Academy responds to homecoming incident

American Leadership Academy responded to allegations of body shaming and dress code at a high school homecoming dance.
1 day ago
Researchers at UNLV say rocks with volcanic ash as old as 12 million years have been discovered at ...
Adam Small

Ancient volcanic ash found at Lake Mead, researchers say

Rocks with volcanic ash that could be 12 million years old have recently been found at Lake Mead, according to researchers from UNLV.
2 days ago
academic website, BYU race...
Aimee Cobabe and Alex Cabrero

Researchers using dirty diapers to develop new autism test

Dirty diapers are being used by researchers at Brigham Young University as a way to try and detect autism in young children at an earlier age.
2 days ago
University of Utah students rallied in support of Mahsa Amini. She was the woman killed by Iran's M...
Lindsay Aerts

U of U students rally in support of Mahsa Amini, woman killed in Iran

University of Utah students protested the death of Mahsa Amini on Tuesday. Amini was recently killed by the Iran's Morality Police.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Despite warnings, most K-12 schools will stay open