SOUTH OGDEN — The Weber School District released its school reopening plan over the weekend as it and other school districts in Utah prepare to start the 2020-21 school year under a growing COVID-19 crisis.
Utah schools went into soft closure in March following an order from Gov. Gary Herbert at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“As we open schools for in-person instruction, it is important that everyone recognizes the role they play in protecting themselves and others. It is absolutely imperative that if anyone experiences flu-like symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, chills, nausea, etc.) they stay home. The board of education has suspended high school attendance credit requirements for the 2020-21 school year so that no student feels compelled to attend school,” district superintendent Jeff Stephens wrote in a letter posted to WSD’s website.
As with most school districts’ plans that have been released, WSD’s didn’t have details on how the health protocols will be enforced and what, if any, student punishment there will be for noncompliance.
There are three main tiers: moderate, enhanced or intense precautions.
Each tier has specific guidelines for one of five categories of the plan: facility sanitation, personal protection and hygiene, distancing and social gatherings, recognizing and completing unfinished learning, digital design and delivery.
The district’s plan indicates that “current health conditions” will determine which type of precautions it will operate under; however, the plan doesn’t specify what those health conditions are.
Many determinations regarding multiple details of the plan will be made in conjunction with the Weber-Morgan Health Department.
Reusable cloth face masks will be provided to all students and staff at each school and, per Herbert’s order last week, everyone in a K-12 public school must wear a mask while inside a school building.
A lot of the guidelines stress frequent hand washing, physical distancing of 6 feet or more, wearing a mask, not going to school if sick and increased cleaning by janitorial staff.
Teachers/instructors are being trained, or will be trained, on best health practices for the classroom, after-school programs and day-to-day activities.
The district says it hopes to open school this fall under “moderate” precautions.
Some highlights of the moderate precautions:
- Nonessential visitors to the school will be limited and those who do visit the school will have their temperature checked and be given a mask. Floors will be marked to direct foot traffic during the school day so as to minimize congregating.
- Parent-teacher conferences may be in a virtual format. Athletics will follow all recommendations put forth by the Weber-Morgan Health Department and the Utah High School Activities Association.
- Mass gatherings such as assemblies and dances might be canceled or rescheduled as virtual events. One option the plan has is the possibility of assemblies being broadcast to classrooms.
Enhanced precautions include, but aren’t limited to:
- Cleaning student desk tops twice per day, disinfectant “misting” and using “electrostatic” cleaners.
- Teachers would dispense hand sanitizer as students come into classrooms, high-risk students would be encouraged to transition to online learning and students would be encouraged to bring their own water bottles.
- For athletics, gym floors would need to be scrubbed daily and event attendance may be exclude the general public and student body. Under these guidelines, assemblies would be highly discouraged and school dances canceled.
- Playground equipment and locker rooms would be off-limits during recess/PE classes. Preschools and day cares would possibly go to a shortened schedule or half day.
Under intense precautions:
- Desks, and basically any surface that could be touched would be cleaned between each student use.
- This would be the point at which students would have a modified school schedule such as a half day.
- Physical distancing would be required in virtually all settings, but there’s no details on enforcement/punishment.
- Nobody would be allowed to use drinking fountains, visitors would be “discouraged” from coming to schools, every student would have their temperature checked before getting on a bus, assemblies and “performances” would be prohibited and athletics “may be” suspended by the UHSAA.
- Schools would look at a possible staggered bell schedule to limit the amount of students in the hallways between classes.
Should parents or students wish, the district is providing online learning options.
The Ogden School District is in the final stages of putting its reopening plan together. A district spokesperson told the Standard-Examiner the district plans to present the plan for board of approval at a special Board of Education session on July 20.
To view the WSD reopening plan, click here.