Youngest Salt Lake elementary students could return to school in late January

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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake elementary school students could return to school as early as the week of Jan. 25 under a proposal adopted by the school board late Tuesday night.

Older elementary students would return to school in a phased-in approach in successive weeks.

Under the proposal approved on a split vote, students pre-kindergarten through first grade would return the week of Jan. 25; grades 2 and 3 would return the week of Feb. 1 and grades 4-6 would return the week of Feb. 8.

Interim Superintendent Larry Madden said preliminary health department data indicates that the risk for elementary students in remote learning is not statistically different from other students in the county that are learning in person.

The plans also envisions “high-quality remote instruction for students who continue online.”

The plan presented by Madden also contemplates that the board review data and guidelines in January “to determine when secondary schools will return.” The motion adopted by the board did not contemplate that part of the proposal.

As for high schoolers, “It appears from this preliminary health department data that the risk for high school students in remote learning is statistically lower than for other students in the county that are learning in person,” Madden said.

Board member Sam Hanson urged the board to consider a later start date and shared concerns of elementary school principals.

“They’re terrified, not because they’re terrified that they’re going to get the virus and die, but they’re terrified that they can’t keep their building staffed,” Hanson said.

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Madden said the health authorities are also calculating differences in risk between teachers teaching in person and those teaching virtually but that data is not currently available.

But other board members spoke in support of the proposal, saying Madden’s proposal was thoughtful and based on data.

“For us as a board, we just need to keep remembering that the day-to-day operations of this district is not our responsibility,” said board member Kristi Swett said. “If he’s asking us to consider this recommendation, then I think we seriously need to consider this recommendation.”

Board President Melissa Ford said the district’s youngest students are most at-risk educationally “not because of the work of their teachers, which is phenomenal, but because of the nature of learning for the youngest learners.”

Board member Mike Nemelka urged board Hanson to advance a motion. Hanson said he wanted to find middle ground, possibly resuming in-person learning later in the school year.

“You’re wasting everybody’s time. I’m beginning to think after two years on this damn board half of you don’t believe in the kids themselves. I think you actually hate them,” Nemelka said.

Salt Lake District was the only district to start the school year in remote learning and to remain in that instructional mode. Nemelka has long advocated for a return to in-person instruction.

Earlier in the day, a group of parents, students, residents, and advocates from Salt Lake’s west side released a letter to the school board and Madden urging the board to delay the decision to return to school in person …read more

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Source:: Deseret News – Utah News


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