SALT LAKE CITY — In this episode of KSL Newsradio’s Coronavirus Question and Answer, Sydnee Dickson, the Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Heather Barnum of the Utah Coronavirus Task Force’s communications team join Jeff Caplan to answer your questions about how education is working even as schools are closed in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“If schools are canceled through the end of the year, do students advance to the next grade?” Jeff asked.
“Graduation and moving to the next level will certainly take place,” Dickson said. “We will be working with schools to figure out in the next week or two what that looks like so that students aren’t penalized by this virus and can graduate and move on to the next level,” she said.
Any setbacks with online learning?
“How is online education going so far? Are you facing any problems?” Jeff asked.
“We’re lucky in Utah,” Dickson said, “in that we’ve had a digital teaching and learning initiative that was instituted about five years ago.
“We’ve been working throughout the state the last couple of years to ensure teachers have the tools that they need,” she said. “That puts us above and ahead of surrounding states that I’ve been speaking with. We have laptops, wi-fi hotspots that have been sent out into homes.
“First and foremost, we’re trying to make sure students have access [to the internet]. Once we know they have the access, then they have the opportunity not only to interact with their teachers and classmates but also [to] get the content online,” Dickson said.
Dad is now my math teacher
“Thousands of parents are suddenly teachers. Is there a quick, easy-to-find resource on the web for parents?” Jeff asked. “And please don’t say Facebook.”
Dickson directed listeners to schools.utah.gov/coronavirus
“There are a lot of resources for parents, students and teachers,” she said.
“Teachers are pushing out a lot of materials to their students. Libraries are offering free online library cards. So it’s a way to access digital books if students can’t get access to hard-copy books,” Dickson said.
Dickson said there are online resources to address the emotional issues children might be feeling now that they are isolated from their friends and classmates.
She said there is an interactive map on the website where students can go to get meals.
When will schools reopen?
“Schools are dismissed until May 1. Will we be coming back to school rooms this year?” Jeff asked.
“That’s the question everyone is asking,” Dickson said. “And we don’t have an answer to that.”
Dickson says some people can be carriers and not show symptoms.
“That can be dangerous for people who might be the caregivers — families, grandparents, etc.,” she said.
She added that closing schools for a month helps prevent accelerating the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.
More lockdowns ahead?
Daniel of Ogden called in to ask: Does the state of Utah anticipate implementing martial law, and how is that going to impact daily life?
“I don’t want to project that kind of fear on the state of Utah,” Barnum said. “We are in a state of emergency. Utah is making decisions that are best for Utah. We’re working with our local and federal partners to be in alignment with recommendations that work for our state,” she said.
“We’re just really asking everyone to socially distance, so we don’t need to make those tough decisions that will be more impactful in your lives,” Barnum replied.
She said shelter-in-place orders, which other states have imposed, are not in the plan for now in Utah.
Give your school feedback
Brandon of West Pointe called in to ask: It feels like my student is doing busy work right now. Is there pressure being put on teachers to send out extra assignments?
“I would give feedback directly to the school,” Dickson said. “I think teachers are trying to figure this all out and trying to adjust what students can do online or not.
“Every student and every family is having a different experience depending on a combination of the teachers and classes that they have. So the best thing you can do is give that feedback directly to the school
“We have not given out any state guidelines about hours of instruction or how to do the instruction. Get back with your school. I know they would really appreciate that feedback,” Dickson said.
Join KSL either on the radio or on the podcast weekdays to hear your Coronavirus questions answered by the experts. Each day, members of the Utah COVID-19 task force and experts in the health field will be available to speak to your comments and concerns. Leave a voicemail at 801-237-2482 to ask us your virus questions during the pandemic.
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