FARMINGTON — The Davis School District presented the overview of its school reopening plan to its Board of Education on Tuesday night.
The district plans to open school this fall, but through the myriad of protocols, requirements, changes, if's, and's, but's and maybe's, school is going to look vastly different.
"We must say to the public: Our schools are not COVID-free zones. The disease is in our community; it will be in our schools," the district's assistant superintendent, John Zurbuchen, said while presenting the plan to the board.
"We cannot guarantee that it is absent. We will do everything possible to mitigate that."
And, it's an evolving situation.
"We know that when we open, some of what I say will be invalid," Zurbuchen said.
The plan comprises the "Big Five," which are five key elements comprising the district's requirements for returning to school. The plan will be sent out to staff on Friday, July 3, and parents will receive it Monday, July 6.
The district will distribute cloth masks to every student and employee on the first day of school. Teachers must wear a mask if they're within 6 feet of a student.
Students are being "strongly encouraged" to wear masks, but they're not outright required to wear them because Zurbuchen said the district wants the parents to be the influence of the choice and not put teachers in an awkward position if a student were to refuse to wear a mask.
The district doesn't have a plan for teachers and "mask discipline" for students. District superintendent Reid Newey said that most of the problems — not just with masks, but related to the COVID-19 situation in general — will be dealt with as they occur.
Every time students enter a space, such as a classroom, they'll have to wash their hands. Every time students enter a classroom, they'll have to sanitize their desk, computer or their general "learning space."
School guests will have to wear a mask, will be temperature screened at the door and be questioned about potential COVID-19 symptoms.
The district is also giving parents the option of traditional, in-person school or keeping their children at home for a number of distance-learning options, which will be explained in further detail in the district's message to parents on Monday.
Ryan Hansen, the district's digital learning director, indicated that if a student chose to enroll online full-time, it wouldn't preclude that student from participating in extracurricular activities (sports, clubs, etc.) at the school the student would have otherwise attended in-person.
On Monday, Gov. Gary Herbert approved the Utah State Board of Education's K-12 school reopening requirements and recommendations, which mandate that school districts publicize their reopening plan by Aug. 1.
To that effect, board member Liz Mumford said she appreciated that the DSD has a framework of a plan out so far in advance of the Aug. 1 deadline.
The state board's plan is very flexible for local school districts, only instituting a handful of requirements in each reopening area, but leaving the rest of it open to the local districts.
If the COVID-19 situation rises to the point of the health department requiring the district to reduce the amount of kids at school, the district's plan is that kids would alternate days in-person (a student would either go Monday-Wednesday or Tuesday-Thursday) and then do distance learning on Fridays.
The issue facing DSD and most every other school district in the state is that many people want to see reduced classroom sizes to mitigate potential COVID-19 spread, but districts aren't flush with free space.
It's quite the opposite situation.
"We don't have extra classrooms, we don't have extra large spaces," Newey told the board.
Zurbuchen said it's impossible to accomplish appropriate physical distancing in a classroom of 30 kids, so teachers are being "encouraged" to make as much space as possible in their classrooms.
The district didn't elaborate totally on athletics, yet, but the presentation did touch on school assemblies.
If the 6-feet-apart rule with an assembly can be accomplished, then the assembly can go on as planned.
But it depends on the specific space in the specific school. Zurbuchen indicated each school's principal will be better suited to judge whether events can go on since they know their specific school's space better than the district.