SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah – The Granite School District has come under criticism lately from teachers for its decision to open schools and hold most of their classes on campus this semester. The district, however, says it will be done safely.
Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley admits spacing desks has been a challenge, but their larger than normal physical classroom sizes helped them do it.
“That means those desks are up against a wall. They’re turned in ways that we traditionally would not locate students, but that still would allow for [eight to ten feet of] space for a teacher,” Horsley says.
Jeff Haney with the Canyons School District says desks technically do not have to be six feet apart, so that helped in planning classrooms. Some classes will also be held in non-traditional places, like conference rooms, for spacing reasons.
“Classroom seating will be set up to allow for the maximum amount of space between students. Excess furniture will be removed. Large congregation areas may be used for instructional purposes,” Haney said.
Many schools are also staggering lunch and recess times to reduce the number of students congregating at any one time.
Others are taking a cue from their local supermarkets and having students walk down the hallways in one direction.
Then there is the issue of cleaning and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Haney says the Canyons District has spent close to $1 million on it.
“Last week, all schools received two cloth masks for every employee, a clear face shield for every teacher. There is Plexiglas for public-facing offices. There are bottles of hand sanitizer for every classroom, and those will be refilled every night. There will be additional bottles of hand sanitizer placed throughout the school,” Haney says.
Horsley says the Granite School District also has enough PPE on hand for the school year.
State rules say children must also wear masks on campus.
However, many districts are asking parents to help their child practice good hygiene now, so the school year can kick off as safely and easily as possible.
“We’re really encouraging families right now to really start wearing their masks. We don’t want a kid to show up on the first day of school, and have never worn a mask before, and have a difficult day just trying to figure out and get used to that. At the same time, please do not come to school if you are not feeling well,” Horsley says.
Some school districts say that, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are unable to make exceptions this year for parents who do not have childcare options.
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