Utah Governor Gary Herbert announced a soft closure of Utah Schools for two weeks starting Monday March 16th.
Governor Gary Herbert made the announcement Friday afternoon that K-12 schools would be dismissed for two weeks, starting Monday, March 16th.
“Let me just be clear that we are closing Utah schools as a preventative measure,” Herbert explained. “Acting early is better than acting late. This decision is guided by input from scientists, who point that eliminating large gatherings greatly does reduce the capacity of the virus to spread throughout our communities.”
The dismissal differs from a full closure. The dismissal will send students home for two weeks. Instruction, however, will continue. Teachers will have up to two days to make plans to continue instruction. Remote instruction will resume on Wednesday, March 18, at the latest, and may take many forms. State Superintendent Syd Dickson explains that other services may continue leaving those decisions up to districts.
“We want to leave options open for local districts and charters to address the following: First, child nutrition, especially for those students who rely on school meals. We imagine this turning into a grab and go system where it is needed,” Dickson continued. “One-on-one or small group tutoring where it is needed. Continuing services for students with disabilities. Continuing instruction, which we believe is vital. Whether schools decide to implement online instruction, packets of information, offline, or a combination of both. This is not a space where kids are just dropped off at if they don't have a place to go but it's really this continuation of services.”
KPCW will be in contact with the schools in the Wasatch Back in the coming days to help disseminate information on their plans.
Local Health Departments will retain the ability to change the dismissal to a full closure if they feel the situation in that community requires it.
The dismissal is effective for two weeks and after two weeks will be re-assessed. Lt. Governor Spencer Cox emphasized the steps announced on Thursday and Friday as preventative.
"We truly believe that if we make these significant steps right now, we will minimize the length of time that we will have to take these steps,” Cox said. “Which will be better for the economy in the long term, and of course better for the health of Utahns.”
Officials also urged parents to make sure that they and their children take personal responsibility to avoid large gatherings. They also advised that social distancing is different from complete social isolation.
“We know this is a time of uncertainty and we know that there are many people who are worried, concerned, not sure what the future holds for them,” Cox explained. “We want to remind you that for most of us, again this illness will be very brief, if contracted at all. But the actions we take today has the ability to say many, many lives here in our amazing state.”