ST. GEORGE — In light of the national and state declarations of the COVID-19 pandemic as a state of emergency, the Utah State Board of Education unanimously voted Thursday morning to issue a statewide waiver for local education agencies through June 30.
Some of the more notable changes had to do with the requirement for a 180-day school year and suspending the statewide assessment for 2019 and 2020 including the ACT, Aspire Plus and others. The board also voted to continue to distribute state funding to local education agencies and other entities.
Some of the other waivers included:
- The requirement that a school calendar be approved in an open meeting, which would allow districts flexibility to shift around things like spring break.
- Transportation requirements, which require local education agencies to record and submit all student transportation costs.
- Deadlines to be pushed back two months for local education agencies to take action on a number of items.
These waivers are conditional.
One of the questions asked by board member Cindy Davis was whether a school or district would be able to act unilaterally without the approval of state or local health departments, specifically in reference to soft-closure or dismissal or coming out of a soft-closure or dismissal.
They are not, according to board superintendent Sydnee Dickson. In some states, the governor has the ability to close schools, but in Utah, the situation is slightly different.
“Even though our governor made the motion or declaration to close the schools, he did so in consultation with the health department,” Dickson said.
In the case of the school that closed a day earlier than other schools, they first contacted the state health department, who referred them to the local health department, and they contacted the board of education, Dickson said.
It’s important to note the terminology used in relation to closures, dismissals and soft-closures, definitions that depend on the state, she said. For Utah, dismissal and soft-closure are used interchangeably and both refer to the school no longer being used but funding and coursework continue. Closures would mean a school closing the doors and the ceasing of all operations.
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