Gov. Gary Herbert extends school closures until the end of the school year

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert delivers his final State of the State address during the 2020 legislative session, Salt Lake City, Utah, Jan. 29, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Fox 13 News, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Gov. Gary Herbert announced Tuesday afternoon that the soft closures of Utah’s K12 public and charter schools will be extended from May 1 until the end of the school year.

Herbert initially announced the dismissal of in-class schooling about a month ago on March 13. Since then, educators statewide have been working creatively in order to keep students engaged and maintain a level of connectivity, largely through digital formats.

“We know it’s been trial and error, and we know it hasn’t been perfect,” Herbert said.

Paraprofessionals have jumped in in order to help facilitate the preparation and delivery of grab-and-go lunches. Parents have had to adapt to becoming assistant educators. This change was sudden and in response to help flatten the curve of the spread of the coronavirus.

As May 1 approaches, Herbert said he’s been wrestling with the idea of whether or not it’s time to bring students back into the classroom, and he came to the decision that it isn’t time to have students back in crowded classrooms.

As a result, the soft closure of schools will be extended until the end of the school year.

“We want to make sure learning continues,” he said, adding that he also wanted to make sure the seniors are up to par with where they should be and are prepared to enter college.

At a location that provides meals for students in Iron County, circa March 2020 | Photo courtesy of Shannon Dulaney, St. George News

State superintendent for the Utah State Board of Education Sydnee Dickson said this decision was not made without deep consideration for students, teachers and families.

She said the first phase is the “new now,” which is the current status of Utah’s public education system. This phase has five main targets to make sure students are fed, learning continues, seniors can graduate, social and emotional needs of students are met, and employees can stay working.

Phase two is the near future, which looks primarily at meeting the needs of vulnerable students and seeing what additional measures can be taken so that these students are not left behind.

“This will 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, some digital options, or whether that comes together in the fall,” Dickson said.

Phase three looks toward the new future, which is a time to take pause and reset the baseline in order to gauge where students are and what they need to do to catch up. Phase three also reflects on what they’ve been doing that hasn’t been working and what can be learned from it as well as providing needed support for parents and teachers.

Dickson thanked the students for their resilience, the parents for their flexibility and the teachers for their creativity, dedication and hard work.

Graduations will likely be done virtually and Dickson said they are welcoming ideas about how these can be facilitated.

COVID-19 information resources

Southern Utah coronavirus count (as of April 14)

Positive COVID-19 tests: 58, including 1 death and 36 recoveries.

  • Washington County: 39 (1 new)
  • Iron County: 15
  • Garfield County: 1
  • Kane County: 3
  • Beaver County: 0

Hospitalized: 2

Tests performed (as of April 8): 3,016

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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