Will remote learning continue? Plans for Utah’s next school year
Students, parents and teachers face a realm of uncertainty when looking at the upcoming school year and the possibility of remote learning as cases in Utah remain consistent.
Gov. Gary Herbert and state superintendent Syd Dickson announced on April 14 a three-phase plan for public schools. The phases include addressing the essentials, bridging the learning gaps, returning and recovering.
The current plan has Utah schools in the first phase, addressing the essentials, but the second phase, bridge the learning gap, is expected to occur over summer months with the third and final phase of return and recover ready to start in the fall.
According to Utah.gov, institutions should continue to help provide learning opportunities, transitioning services, meal programs, employment options, and mental/social necessities throughout all stages.
As of now, most institutions are not making any definitive decisions about the academic year but are asking educators to remain flexible.
“We appreciate teachers flexibility and determination,” said Mark Peterson, public relations director for the Utah State Board of Education. “We appreciate their dedication to their students and their ingenuity in making the best of a bad situation.”
In a board meeting on May 7, Dickson and school leaders across the state proposed the fall schedule follow these tentative guidelines for remote/in-person learning:
- Stepped up health and hygiene measures
- Class sizes of 12 or fewer
- Staggered schedules
- Younger kids first
- New calendars
- Different attendance policies
- No large group gatherings (back to school nights, assemblies, etc.)
- Remote learning continues in some form
- Social, emotional support and wrap-around services
Temperature checks, handwashing stations, access to mental health apps are other resources that may be available in the fall.
Tami Salmon, a keyboarding teacher at Washington Field Intermediate School, said she had been told by her principal to prepare her curriculum for digital learning, but said she suspects this is “just in case.”
Herbert and Dickson declared a soft closure of all public schools until the end of the current academic year, which resulted in a move to remote learning for the state.
Universities across the state will also be holding summer classes remotely, but return to campus for the fall semester remains undecided.
Becky Allred, language arts and social studies teacher at Sunrise Ridge Intermediate School, said the move online has been difficult.
“It is lonely working in isolation. My body gets sore from sitting in a chair. My computer has a boring personality. Sometimes my computer or my internet feels like throwing fits, and that is pretty frustrating,” Allred noted.
Educators have expressed concern about their own mental and physical health if educational facilities open before the virus is under control.
Hayde Harris, a paraprofessional educator at Edison Elementary, said she would feel more comfortable if a vaccine was available. A notice two to four weeks before school starts detailing plans for the year would be enough time to prepare, Harris said.
One important step for returning in the fall is applying what has been learned through remote learning so far.
Peterson said: “We have learned that there are some amazing teachers, students and parents out there. We have learned that it very much improves the situation if teachers and parents are on the same page and each have reasonable expectations of what, and how much, can be done remotely.”
Featured image courtesy of Matthew Henry