EDUCATION + SCHOOLS

Back to School: Will families use virtual learning or opt for in-person class?

Aug 3, 2021, 5:00 AM
back to school learning...
(FILE PHOTO)
(FILE PHOTO)

SALT LAKE CITY — Teachers are decorating classrooms, parents are taking kids shopping for clothes and supplies, going back to school is in full swing. Most students will be returning to classrooms, but some will continue learning at home. 

2020 was tough for many Utah students, says Granite School District spokesperson Ben Horsley. Through the uncertainty, cancellations of events they were looking forward to, and virtual learning, he says many of them struggled. 

“If two springs ago, when COVID first happened, taught us anything it’s that there is a high degree of student who do not do well with an online distance option,” Horsley says.

Virtual school will be available for many Utah school districts

While it was a necessity last year, what’s up with online education for the 2021/2022 school year? 

“There are many kids that do just fine with having that online option, move at their own pace, and be able to do many great things. I do anticipate that online and distance learning will be an option, not just like it was before COVID but it will be after,” says Horsley. 

The Utah State Board Of Education says it’s doing everything it can to empower districts to offer online learning programs, and many of them will do it differently

For instance, Granite will again offer its live program for K-12 schools where students can interact with teachers in real-time. It will also offer another program to high school students where they can complete schoolwork at their own pace. The district is also giving families more flexibility. 

Horsley says, “We’re allowing parents the option to shift between those two modalities between quarters. Depending on what happens with COVID, you could see some families pull out of in-person or pull out of distance option and switch back and forth.”

Many other districts are offering similar options. 

Will more families use virtual learning this school year?

According to Horsley, probably not. He isn’t anticipating many students to go in that direction but acknowledges he can only speak for Granite. 

“Based on our surveys from last spring, at the high end, we expect roughly 5% of our student population to utilize distance learning,” says Horsley. 

That could change with new guidelines from the Utah Department of Health. The agency suggests all people, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in the state’s K-12 schools. The guidance is not mandating masks but also encourages anyone eligible for the vaccine to get the shot. 

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Back to School: Will families use virtual learning or opt for in-person class?