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75% of Park City teachers who responded to a recent survey want remote learning

PCSD Park City School District Building Ben
Ben Lasseter

After the Legislature terminated the mask mandate that covered Summit County's schools, the union that represents most Park City teachers asked its members if they want to move to remote learning temporarily while COVID is surging. 75% of those who responded said yes.

Before the state Legislature ended Summit County’s mask mandate last Friday, Park City teachers were split 50/50 about whether to go to remote learning.

Now that the Legislature has removed previously available COVID-19 prevention measures in schools, including mandatory masking and testing, the Park City Education Association reported that 75% of the teachers who responded to its survey said they wanted to go to remote learning.

Union co-president Mary Morgan asked the Board of Education on Wednesday whether that was a possibility.

“What are the remote options at this point?” Morgan said. “Because that is one thing that … 75% of our teachers that we surveyed, obviously, really very concerned and wanting to go remote.”

The preference for in-person learning has been nearly uniform among teachers, students, administrators, parents and, yes, state legislators, since shortly after schools were forced to close their doors when the pandemic began two years ago.

But as the omicron variant of the virus causes unprecedented case numbers and absences among students and staff, few tools are available to school districts other than moving to remote learning.

The board meeting was held the same day the Utah House of Representatives passed a bill that outlines the specific steps school districts must follow to pursue that path.

The bill requires local school board approval for a move to remote learning, along with a request for an exemption from state officials including the governor, president of the Senate, speaker of the House of Representatives and superintendent of public instruction.

Park City district officials said they still had questions about several parts of the bill. One said definitive answers likely wouldn’t come until the State Board of Education through its rulemaking process turned the legislation into actionable steps for local districts.

“Realistically, the goal of the legislation is really to keep kids in school and to minimize remote,” the official said.

The person was responding to a question from Board Chair Erin Grady, but was not visible in the streamed video of the meeting and did not identify herself.

A student representative to the board, identified as Emily, also asked for a remote learning option. She asked whether students who have immunocompromised family members, or those who don’t feel safe going to school amid spiking cases, could continue their education outside the classroom.

“I know it’s a lot to ask teachers to do that, especially to go back to what we were doing last year about doing the Zooms for those who were quarantined, who learn at home,” the student representative said. “Remember they had a designated camera for those classes? It was very helpful for students. It felt like a normal routine, you were still going to class. It still felt like they were getting that same instruction as those in person.”

The union clarified last week that there is no remote option for students. Students who are absent may access course materials online, but the lessons are not live-streamed as they were during remote learning last year.

The student’s comments came less than a week after about 200 Park City students walked out of class to protest the Legislature’s actions to terminate the local mask mandate.

The board did not address the student’s idea directly. In responding more generally to Morgan’s question about what measures are available, the district official said going remote shouldn’t be the first option. She said, given the Legislature’s clear intent, moving to remote learning would not be easy, and the district might put a lot of time and energy into pursuing it only to find out it’s not possible.