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Park City schools will remain in-person next week (updated)

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Alexander Cramer
The Park City Board of Education in an emergency meeting Friday morning directed the district not to pivot to remote learning for the week of Jan. 17. Board members suggested there was no guarantee a move to remote learning would slow the spread of the virus.

The Park City Board of Education unanimously recommended against transitioning to remote learning for the week of Jan. 17.

The Park City Board of Education in an emergency meeting Friday morning directed the district not to pivot to remote learning. The decision comes amid unprecedented numbers of COVID-19 cases in the community and hundreds of absences of both students and teachers.

Board member Andrew Caplan said schools were the safest place for students.

“I mean, for me it's like ‘Where are the kids safest?’ right? Are you safest at school if you're not feeling ill, or are you safest unsupervised at home?” Caplan said. “To me, based on that and based on equity for all of our students, this is a no-brainer decision.”

He and other officials have mentioned the disproportionate effects remote learning had on some students, particularly those who care for younger siblings if school doesn’t meet in person.

Board members said there was no guarantee that going to at-home learning would help stem the spread of the virus. They spoke about the number of visitors to town and the rampant spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Even if schools transitioned to remote learning, they said, there was no guarantee students wouldn’t continue to meet with their friends, go skiing or patronize local businesses.

Board members also discussed the effects the move would have on families that would have to find childcare.

State officials on Thursday allowed local school districts to implement remote learning during the weeks of Jan. 17 or Jan. 24 in response to the unprecedented surge of COVID-19 cases being reported in Utah.

School districts in North Summit, South Summit and Wasatch County all said they, too, would keep kids in schools, but continue to closely monitor case numbers.

If the Park City board opted for remote learning, it only would have affected schools with more than a certain number of COVID-19 cases. Those schools are Park City High School, Treasure Mountain Junior High School, Ecker Hill Middle School and Jeremy Ranch Elementary School. The other three elementary schools would have remained in-person for the four-day week.

Board members discussed the impact the pandemic has had on teachers, especially those who teach older students. They acknowledged the mask mandate has challenges, especially enforcing it in the high school, and that some secondary school teachers want a “reset” that the brief stint of remote learning could have provided.

Board President Erin Grady asked parents to be respectful of the board’s decision, saying that either outcome would have left some unsatisfied.

“And if this is a decision that we made today that doesn't work for your family and you have concerns, please reach out to your teacher, to your administrator in that building and they can work with you and help your child go remote for a certain amount of time that you see fit,” she said.

Grady said the board would continue to reevaluate the situation. The board is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday.

Alexander joined KPCW in 2021 after two years reporting on Summit County for The Park Record. While there, he won many awards for covering issues ranging from school curriculum to East Side legacy agriculture operations to land-use disputes. He arrived in Utah by way of Madison, Wisconsin, and western Massachusetts, with stints living in other areas across the country and world. When not attending a public meeting or trying to figure out what a PID is, Alexander enjoys skiing, reading and watching the Celtics.