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Park City High School is Back, But Is It Ready?

Carolyn Murray/KPCW Radio

Park City High School opened to 10th graders Thursday. Friday, teachers welcomed back 11th and 12th grade students for the first time since mid-March when Summit County went into a six-week lock-down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Sixty-five percent of Park City High School teachers, according to the 200 surveyed this week, say they’re concerned about the COVID-19 health risk as students return to school, saying the only way to safely return to in-person learning is to reduce class sizes and exposure. The survey shows 76% believe that the start date should be pushed to Sept. 8.


Park City Education Association Co-President Julie Hooker sent a letter to Superintendent Jill Gildea asking that in-person school be delayed until they address sanitization protocols, class sizes, remote learning, and technological limitations. 


Hooker says teachers have had to supply their own spray bottles and disinfectant in order to sanitize in between classes. She also outlines inconsistent protocols related to technology. She says teachers don’t understand the remote learning model and they don’t have a way to provide simultaneous teaching for in school and at home learners. The camera in her classroom, she says, is a security camera, and has not been tested yet as a remote teaching tool. 


“My second period could sign in at 9 o'clock they could watch,” she said. “I could have a Google Meet going on. I could have them buddied up with somebody in class and they could be asking questions.” 


Hooker says some high school classes have 30 kids in one classroom, making it impossible to practice safe COVID-19 distancing. 


“I think the biggest issue as you're looking at our rooms set up for 30 kids, I clearly cannot socially distance.”


Superintendent Gildea told KPCW this week that putting desks six feet apart may not be possible.


“We are trying to put desks as far apart as possible, but as you know there is a requirement for face coverings because we do know in a school environment you're not going to be six feet apart and as a matter of fact, probably three feet apart is from what I'm hearing, good,” Gildea said. “You know if you can maintain some distance and face kids all in one direction rather than at each other, that's you know a good improvement in trying to keep away risk of transmission or germs.” 


Gildea also says they’ve got new routines that will be taught to both students and teachers. 


“The things that we are doing to mitigate is really, you know a lot of it is based on training,” she said. “So, you have to understand how is it, you know, that hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, camp, you know, and daycares can open. How is that happening with not everybody getting sick? So, effective layered mitigation strategies are a key to a safe return. Like keeping distance, having windows open, get lots of fresh air. We've got a new filtration system.”


She says they have robust learning management systems courses that will allow students who are home to keep up with their classmates. 


Hooker, who teaches English, has a total of 150 students. Five have chosen virtual learning. Her classroom has no windows to the outside and her largest class is 30 students. She says teachers have requested shade tents for outside classrooms and many teachers in the high school are waiting for plexiglass dividers for their classrooms.

KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.
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