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All Ogden schools moving online as COVID-19 cases rise

By Tim Vandenack - | Jan 20, 2022

Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner

Claire Quick injects Richard Fryer with a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at Highland Junior High School in Ogden on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.

OGDEN — All Ogden schools will shift to online learning on Friday and next Monday as student and teacher absences rise due to the COVID-19 virus and other illnesses.

The aim, the Ogden School District said in a message on Thursday to parents, is to keep kids out of classrooms in a bid to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and other ailments.

None of the district’s schools have actually surpassed COVID-19 case thresholds set by the state that trigger a move to online learning, at least according to figures on the Ogden School District website. But the confirmed COVID-19 case numbers are rising, doubling of late in some schools, and tracking the precise number of cases has been difficult, school officials say.

“Whether the cause is COVID-19 or any other sickness, we believe we are reaching a point where our in-person learning will not be as effective as it should be due to the high number of students and employees missing school due to illness,” says the message to parents. “We had a record number of employees out today and we expect it to be worse tomorrow.”

Next Monday, school officials will decide if additional action is needed. “Our intention is to allow as many schools as possible to return to in-person learning on Tuesday, Jan. 25. We will assess the impact of ‘official’ COVID-19 numbers and availability of school employees on Monday to determine whether any individual schools will require additional at-home learning days,” says the message.

Owing to rising teacher absences and limited numbers of substitutes, Ogden School District administrators have been tapped to help out in some classes, said Jer Bates, the district spokesperson.

The number of teachers who have called in sick is “significant,” he said. “It’s a lot. It’s enough that it’s definitely having an impact.”

Schools all along the Wasatch Front have been wrestling with rising numbers of COVID-19 cases among the ranks of students and staff. Davis School District has temporarily moved 22 schools to remote learning and Weber School District officials have temporarily moved five schools to online instruction, including Weber, Fremont and Roy high schools, as well as Sand Ridge Junior High, a new addition announced Thursday.

Per Senate Bill 107, approved last year, schools with at least 1,500 students must take measures to prevent COVID-19’s spread when active cases represent 2% of the student body. For schools with fewer than 1,500 students, the threshold is 30 active cases among students.

SB 107 initially called for schoolwide COVID-19 testing in schools surpassing the thresholds. State officials changed that last week, though, in light of rising cases and limited testing materials, allowing impacted schools to go online instead.

Ogden schools haven’t yet hit the SB 107 thresholds, at least according to district figures. Thursday’s decision, rather, was prompted by the rising number of cases and worries that they will keep going up.

“Our goal is to give our school communities an opportunity to slow the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses,” reads the message to parents.

Teachers were to distribute Chromebook laptops to students on Thursday for use at home on Friday and Monday. Moreover, every Ogden School District school will provide meal packages containing two breakfasts and two lunches for pickup from 11 a.m. to 1 pm. on Friday.

Given the limited number of substitute teachers, the district is also asking for help from the public to fill in in classes. “We encourage community members with available time to consider joining our substitute workforce,” Thursday’s statement reads.

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