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Multiple bills focused on schools introduced on session’s first day

By Ashtyn Asay - Daily Herald | Jan 18, 2022

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

Members of the Utah Legislature stand at attention during the start of the 2022 session Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in Salt Lake City.

The first day of the 2022 Utah legislative session brought forward two new bills that would directly impact education in Utah, if enacted.

Senator Jacob L. Anderegg, R-Lehi, introduced Senate Bill 78 which addresses school board expansion requirements within the state. This bill would modify the size of the school board in a school district based on the size of the district’s student population,

If this bill is passed, beginning Jan. 1, 2023, school districts with fewer than 10,000 students would have a school board of up to five members, and school districts with more than 10,000 students but fewer than 50,000 students would have a school board of up to seven members. Districts with 50,000 students but fewer than 100,000 students would also have a board of up to seven members — unless the school board in question voted to add up to two more members. School districts with 100,000 students or more would have a board of up to nine members.

Provo City School District has just under 14,000 students, according to their website, and seven school board members. Nebo School District reports 38,500 total staff and student, squarely in the up-to-seven member level, where they are currently. With 83,796 students, Alpine School District is still the largest in Utah County, and under the proposed bill, could either stay at seven members or go up to nine on the school board.

Senate Bill 113, sponsored by Sen. Todd D. Weiler, R-Woods Cross, amends provisions regarding in-person learning and Test to Stay protocols. Specifically, the bill would suspend the Test to Stay requirements within schools, clarify when a student would be able to return to school during a Test to Stay event and add requirements for the application for an exception to an in-person learning requirement.

Under this bill, the requirement for schools to provide in-person instruction would be temporarily suspended if the active cases of COVID-19 in that school surpass the case threshold requires for Test to Stay Protocols — either 30 active COVID-19 cases for schools with a student population under 1,500, or over 2% for schools with a student population over 1,500. This suspension would allow for a period of remote learning.

This bill would take effect Jan. 31, upon approval by the governor, or following the constitutional time limit if it was previously approved by two-thirds of all the members elected to each chamber.

Weiler encouraged parents with concerns about the Test to Stay program to contact Sen. Kathleen A. Riebe, D-Salt Lake City, before ultimately circling the bill.

While both bills were introduced, in addition to hundreds more, the focus of the day in the Utah State Capitol was on mask mandates in Salt Lake County. A measure rescinding the mask mandate was passed by the Utah Senate despite pushback from State senators, representatives and members of the county council.

“As a Republican, I want people to know that not all Republicans believe this is the right call,” County Councilmember Aimee Winder Newton said. “I think you use those mask mandates in a very limited way at very specific times when they’re needed, and I think this is one.”

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