OGDEN — At an Ogden School District Board of Education meeting Thursday night, Superintendent Rich Nye briefed the board on the district’s updated COVID-19 numbers, which — by official count — have been somewhat low so far this year.
Currently, the district sits at eight active cases of the virus and has seen a total of 26 since school started on Aug. 26. The Box Elder School District is a similar size to Ogden and as of Monday had 10 active cases.
While the small numbers are cause for celebration, they also highlight a concern the district had going into the school year: How likely is it that students exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms would be tested for the virus?
“We might have some people who are having symptoms and aren’t getting tested,” said district spokesperson Jer Bates. The primary reasons for that, Bates posited, are a lack of money and mistrust of the government.
The Ogden School District is one of the poorest districts in the state, with 18 out of its 19 schools qualifying for federal Title I funding based primarily on the concentration of students who are living below the U.S. Census poverty level.
Although money is an issue for many families living in the Ogden School District, that does not keep parents from getting their children tested. If a family is insured, all plans should cover COVID-19 testing. And if they are not, the cost for Utahns will be covered by Medicaid as a provision of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Uninsured individuals, however, must also meet citizenship requirements to qualify for test coverage.
According to a report published this year by The Center for Migration Studies, the estimated population of undocumented immigrants in Utah rose from 91,000 in 2010 to 92,000 by 2018. The majority of those immigrants, according to the study, are from Latin America.
Although the Ogden School District is legally prohibited from keeping track of the number of undocumented families in the district, they know they’re there, Bates said. Enrollment figures from the Utah State Board of Education show that 50.8% of students in the Ogden School District are Hispanic.
Bates said some undocumented families also may be worried about potential interactions with the government as a result of seeking out a test.
“It has been brought up to me by people outside of our school district that, conceptually, that’s a concern,” Bates said.
In response, one of the district’s main focuses has been education around the virus. In addition to emails being sent to students' parents, as part of its Keeping Ogden Healthy plan the Ogden School District is working to "identify students and families who need additional support and establish frequent contact," according to its website.
It is hoping that if parents are aware of the symptoms of COVID-19 and keep sick children at home, its numbers will stay low.
“It’s imperative working with our communities and with our families — if a kid is exhibiting symptoms, please, please, please don’t send them to school,” Nye said.
Information about the district's plan to combat the spread of the virus are on its website — in English and in Spanish.