ALL NEWS

Governor announces ‘soft closure’ of Utah public schools

Mar 13, 2020, 4:11 PM | Updated: 9:20 pm

covid-19 schools, Governor Herbert lowers flags to honor the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg...

FILE - In this Sept. 12, 2018, file photo, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert speaks during a news conference at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Gov. Gary Herbert announced a “soft closure” of all Utah public schools effective Monday for a period of two weeks in an effort to avoid the spread of COVID-19 in the state. This comes just hours after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency and two new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Summit County.

“We’ve been doing everything we can to get ahead of the virus,” said Gov. Herbert during a press briefing with the Utah State Board of Education Friday. “It’s better to be too early than to be too late.”

What does “soft closure” mean?

The governor announced it would be a “soft closure” meaning the Utah public schools will still provide meals to students during this time and a place to go for parents who work.

The State Board of Education says food will be provided in a “grab and go” system, one-on-one tutoring can still be offered and other services will be still available.

While school will be dismissed for the next two weeks, students should not prepare to be finished for the rest of the school year, the board said. They said even though in-person classes are cancelled, school assignments are still expected to be completed through “distance learning.”

Any specific materials, like books or technology, can be given out and taken home by students depending on what is available for each school.

“We are not cancelling the school year by any means,” said Sydnee Dickson, the superintendent of public instruction. “Learning is still taking place and we are still expecting students are online. […] School is still taking place in a variety of forms.”

For students who don’t have access to internet, there are some actions taking place within different schools on how to go through with this. Dickson said schools are preparing to assist families who don’t have access to these resources.

Gov. Gary Herbert said students still need to take responsibility during this time. Dismissed classes doesn’t mean students should take advantage of the time to hang out with large groups of friends.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox made the distinction that social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. He said students can still take decisions to reach out to friends while still practicing social distancing.

Herbert said when the two-week closure period for Utah public schools is over, they will reassess conditions.

Gov. Herbert said these measures are being taken to avoid the spread of the virus across the state. At this time, social distancing is one of the most important measures for Utahns to take.

Cox said this is a preventative measure — not a reaction to disaster.

“We’re not doing this because things are bad right now,” he said. “We’re doing this so things don’t get bad in the future.”

He said it’s not about fighting over survival, but an opportunity to look out for neighbors and other Utahns during this time.

“This doesn’t mean you have to go pillage the stores,” he said. “This doesn’t mean you have to fight over toilet paper.”

How Utah is already reacting

The news comes one day after the governor made public recommendations to the state to cancel events holding 100+ people in attendance. At the time, this included church services but didn’t apply to K-12 public schools.

Utah universities and colleges made the move to cancel classes and move online, with several events and sporting activities being postponed or canceled throughout the state.

As of Thursday, Murray School District was the only district to announce a closure. This happened after school officials say they learned about potential direct contact exposure to the novel coronavirus.

They announced cancelling classes out of “an abundance of caution.” However, the district confirmed there were no signs or symptoms associated with the the virus.

Other districts held off on canceling classes at first, noting school shouldn’t be closed out of anxiety or fear.

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 of local health departments.

Health officials recommended staggering lunches and recess breaks, so there aren’t as many kids in one location at any given time.  They also recommend activities like assemblies be canceled for the next two weeks, as well as any out-of-state traveling.

State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said in a weekly briefing with the Utah Health Department Friday they still haven’t seen any evidence of the virus spreading from one person to another within the borders of Utah. Many cases are brought from out-of-state visitors.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

All News

April, 2024: A view of West Jordan, Utah, one of the newest sites where a temple for The Church of ...

Simone Seikaly

Church of Jesus Christ announces locations for two new Utah temples

The temples to be built in Lehi and West Jordan, Utah, were announced just weeks ago during the Church's April conference.

8 minutes ago

An assortment of vegan, organic, locally sourced, and wild caught food products all using plastic p...

Associated Press

How one grocery shopper takes steps to avoid ‘pointless plastic’

Nature wraps bananas and oranges in peels. But in some modern supermarkets, they're bagged or wrapped in plastic too. For one shopper, it's too much.

17 minutes ago

FILE: Joana Abeel holds her daughter, Penelope Abeel, at the Draper City Splash Pad during a heat w...

Alexandrea Bonillla and Simone Seikaly

Above-normal temperatures expected for Utah summer

Summer weather predictions point to a La Niña weather pattern which will bring warm temperatures and dry conditions to Utah.

46 minutes ago

parleys canyon quarry as it looks now...

Peter Johnston

Critics continue opposition to Parleys Canyon quarry proposal

Controversy over a proposed quarry in Parleys Canyon continues, months after two versions of the proposal died in the legislature.

1 hour ago

High amounts of spring runoff cause swelling of rivers across the state....

Adam Small

Spring runoff causes fast-moving rivers, officials urge caution

Spring runoff is once again in full effect and Utah's rivers, streams and creeks are moving high and fast.

2 hours ago

Marijuana plants grow in a facility in Tooele, Uah....

Heather Peterson

Medical marijuana card numbers spike in Utah

Utah has had a large spike in the number of medical marijuana cards issued to patients over the last few years.

3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

Governor announces ‘soft closure’ of Utah public schools