Utah Governor Gary Herbert announced public and charter schools will be closed through the end of the school year.
Governor Herbert first closed Utah schools effective March 16th for two weeks. He later extended the closure to the end of April. Tuesday, he announced schools will be closed for the rest of the academic school year.
Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson did say that instruction would continue through the end of the year. Without a return to school however, some end of year traditions will be modified. Dickson says schools have already been preparing and planning for how to conduct graduation.
“I've heard about a lot of really great ideas," Dickson said. "I hope that students will think of some ideas as well and let their school leaders know about some of their ideas. They’re some of our most creative talent. So even though they may not have that ritual of face to face graduation, and they can move into a virtual graduation celebration. There are also things that they can engage in after that specific graduation date that helps them transition to the next phase.”
Dickson outlined that for now the State Board of Education is focused on five immediate needs.
“Making sure that our students are fed," Dickson continued. "Making sure that we continue on with learning. Making sure that our students who are ready to graduate can do so and be able to transition into the work force and into higher education. We're also very keenly aware of the social emotional needs of our educators and our families, wanting to make sure those needs are met. So our school counselors and mental health workers are working on those issues as well. Last but not least, we want to make sure that our employees can stay employed with gainful work and be paid. Many of our classified employees, our bus drivers, our para-educators, they've been placed in roles that they haven't been in before and we so appreciate their flexibility.”
Dickson says in the near future they’ll begin to look at gaps in student education, especially for students who are vulnerable to academic failure.
“Students with disabilities, our students who are learning English, any of our students who live in conditions of poverty. Wanting to make sure that they have the tools and the skills and the knowledge to catch up with their peers," Dickson explained. "This will take some additional support through a transition time. Whether that summer, depending on when we can get back together and engage in small group work, individual tutoring, some digital options, or whether that comes together in the fall.”
Dickson says schools will also be assessing gaps when the academic year starts up again. The Utah Legislature is holding a special session this Thursday. They are scheduled to discuss the challenges schools are facing due to COVID-19.