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Gov. Herbert announces COVID-19 to close schools rest of year

Gov. Gary Herbert addressed reporters and the public via livestream on Tuesday, April 14, 2020. Photo: KSL

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert announced a soft closure of Utah schools will continue through the remainder of the school year because of COVID-19.

The governor announced the original “soft closure” of schools related to COVID-19 over a month ago, on March 13, 2020. He extended it at least once before Tuesday’s announcement.

“After consulting at length with the stakeholders,” Gov. Gary Herbert announced, “I’ve come to the position that in order for us to continue to slow the spread… this is not the time to have our schools back open.”

COVID-19 and schools

“We need to extend the soft closure of our schools through the remainder of the school year,” he continued.

Sydnee Dickson, the state superintendent, thanked the governor for including stakeholders, including the Utah State Board of Education, in making the decision thoughtfully and carefully. But she acknowledged the schools need to address a number of lingering concerns.

“We have to really assess the gaps that our students find themselves in,” Dickson said, pointing to concerns such as achievement gaps, English language-learning and other services that may require transition time.  All of those, she said, would be addressed in the coming weeks, along with other considerations, although she wasn’t able to specify when that transition time would start or end.

“This may take some additional support through a transition time, whether that’s summer, depending on when we can get back together and engage in small group work, individual tutoring, digital options or whether that comes together in the fall,” she said.

One of their biggest concerns is that students stay “socially healthy” while being apart from their friends.  Teachers are trying to come up with new ways to make sure kids don’t feel so alone when they can’t socialize.

Dickson said, “Teachers are engaged in virtual recess, for example, so that students can see each other face to face.  We’ve had drive-by parades with teachers waving at their students.”

Also, “Our leaders… have already been planning on virtual graduations” in case traditional ceremonies can’t be held, Dickson said. She said the creative solutions she’s seen so far encourage her and she’s calling on students to come up with more suggestions.

She said, “I know that our kiddos can lean in with their school leaders and come up with ways they can celebrate their many accomplishments.”

Dickson said the schools also continue to evaluate how to handle grading as the school year wraps up.  This may include things like a “pass/incomplete” system instead of “pass/fail.”  Or, the teacher might be allowed to issue the child’s third quarter grade as the final one.  Dickson says teachers will be told to “go easy” on the students and do no harm to their grades.


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus spreads from person to person, much like the cold or flu.

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A 

Utah’s Coronavirus Information 

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States