SANDY (ABC4 News) – The Canyons School Board spent more than two hours Friday night in an emergency meeting to come up with a plan to respond to the rising number of COVID-19 cases. This came after Corner Canyon High School reported 40 positive cases with 500 students quarantined.
The number is the highest count of positive COVID-19 cases of any Utah school so far and prompted the school to move to online-only learning for the next two weeks.
Nearly two dozen concerned parents, students, and teachers gathered outside the district building with signs to voice their concerns. They eventually made their way into the meeting room but became frustrated when they found out there was no public comment period.
“Why are you sending home healthy kids from school who are coming into a classroom, they are sanitizing, wearing masks, they’re being distanced as they’re to?” said Christa Reid, who is the parent of two students at Corner Canyon High School.
“If they’re going to make our kids wear masks, I say that they should keep our schools open. I don’t see any reason to keep schools closed. If there’s families or teachers that are worried about their safety and health, they have the option to stay home,” said Amber Johnson, a parent of students at Alta High School, Indian Hills Elementary, and Crescent Elementary. “I don’t want another Spring 2020. These kids’ mental health has been put on the back burner and it hasn’t been important.”
“It’s concerning. On a school to school basis, things should be taken care. But I definitely don’t think that because something’s happening at Corner Canyon High School, it should shut down any other schools,” Anne Hillstead, a P.E. teacher at Lone Peak Elementary School.
Angela Meredith, a teacher at Brighton High School said the district should have incorporated a hybrid schedule from the start.
“Like some of our neighboring districts like Jordan, Davis, and Alpine School Districts. Mainly because it would given the option of less students in the building at one time and it would have allowed one day for teachers who are doing both online and in-person instruction more time to plan,” said Meredith.
Board members said they received hundreds of letters from concerned community members and tried to read as much as they could. District officials know this will likely be an uphill battle as cases continue to climb. The board said they are trying to do is find a balance between all sides of concerned teachers, students, and parents.
“Unfortunately, this is not going to be the last time we’re going to be confronted with changing circumstances where there’s no clear right or wrong answer and so I would request the patience of everyone involved, ” said board member Amanda Oaks. “Recognize that everyone that comes to this table matters. Everyone, whether you are a parent, whether you are a student, whether you’re a teacher, all of your voices matter.”
The board voted unanimously to pass an amended version of the district’s list of recommendations. Those include creating a dashboard online to keep track of the positive COVID-19 cases and other data, developing three tiers of concern classified by the number of positive cases, and establishing a threshold of when a school would be moved to online learning.
“Our board of education put into place a road map, so to speak, of how we will move forward with school communities that do have increased cases of COVID-19,” said Jeff Haney, spokesperson for the Canyons School District.
The board will meet again next Friday. This time to discuss the possibility of moving in-school learning from five days to four days to alleviate teacher burn-out.