The Davis School District will start the school year on an alternate-day, hybrid-learning (in-person/remote) schedule that will last until at least winter break, according to a letter sent to parents and staff members Tuesday, as the state grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students whose last name starts with A-K will go to school in-person on Mondays and Wednesdays with remote learning on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Students whose last name starts with L-Z will have remote/at-home learning on Mondays and Wednesdays with in-person school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
All students will have remote/at-home school on Fridays, with teachers at the school site.
The new plan means that, instead of teachers having just two days to change their class curriculum to an all-online model, like in March when schools first went into soft closure, teachers will get about a month — school starts Aug. 25 in the district — to put most of their class curriculum online.
The move also figures to place increased pressure on employers to allow their employees to continue working remotely as well as child care providers to watch after children of parents who can’t work remotely.
The district’s reopening plan, approved by the school board earlier in July, has three reopening models: traditional, alternate-day and soft closure.
According to the letter, the district initially planned on a traditional school opening, but “due to the prevalence of COVID-19 cases in our community and in order to further limit the spread of the virus, we need to increase our capacity to provide physical distancing in our schools.”
COVID-19 cases in Davis County have fluctuated since the state eased reopening guidelines in May.
The decision was made, per the letter, to halve the amount of students in the school building and on buses — making physical distancing possible in otherwise crowded schools — allowing teachers and staff to monitor the strict hygiene protocols, make contact tracing easier for the Davis County Health Department and to keep students’ personal relationship with teachers and staff intact, which the district says is an integral part of learning.
The letter also clarified what each school day will look like as well as what will happen with students in the same household with different last names.
“In high school and junior high schools on a block (A/B) schedule, A-day classes will be repeated Monday and Tuesday for the two groups of students. B-day classes will be repeated on Wednesday and Thursday for the two groups of students on subsequent days. Fridays will be combined A/B days,” the letter read.
Additionally, “If students in the same household have different last names, group assignment will be applied to all students based on last name of the oldest student in the household.”
The district still has fully online learning options available for families who would like to choose that option.
UNION, LEGISLATURE WEIGH INShortly after DSD announced its hybrid plans, the Utah Education Association, the largest teacher union in the state, called on the governor, the state board of education and local school districts to delay reopening K-12 school this fall.
“Up until now, Utah has faced a choice between two bad options — either return to in-person learning and put our students, educators and communities at risk or temporarily return to a distance learning and virtual instruction model. Given the state’s rising number of positive coronavirus cases, this is no longer a choice. We simply cannot unnecessarily risk lives by opening schools too soon,” UEA president Heidi Matthews said in a press release.
“We know that in-person teaching and learning is best for both students and educators, and educators want nothing more than to get back into schools with our students. The reality is that, with few exceptions, we are nowhere near containing the spread of this virus. Current school district plans, no matter how robust, simply cannot sufficiently ensure the health and safety of our students, educators and families in communities where the virus continues to spread unchecked,” Matthews continued.
The Utah State Board of Education and Gov. Gary Herbert have drawn criticism from some parents and teachers for wanting to fully reopen schools so quickly. Local school districts’ plans have also been met publicly with some pushback from parents and privately by some teachers.
“We call on the State Board of Education to lead by continuing efforts to ensure equity. We recognize the pandemic is not experienced equally by all communities and populations, particularly in rural areas and communities of color. The board must require school district reopening plans that deliver equal learning opportunities,” Matthews said in the release.
“Finally, we call on Gov. Gary Herbert to lead with science and safety and declare that schools in impacted areas will open remotely this fall. We call on him to declare that local school districts should NOT return to in-person learning until COVID-19 cases decline and they have robust reopening plans created with input from educators and carefully reviewed and approved by local health authorities,” Matthews stated.
Adding to a chaotic Tuesday of announcements, the state legislature’s Interim Education Committee plans to meet to discuss school reopening plans, according to Fox 13.
State Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, and Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, both told the TV station that they want to hear from the state office of education, the state school board, the UEA and the superintendent’s association.