FARMINGTON, Utah (ABC4) — It’s been one week since Governor Spencer Cox and other Utah legislatures sent a letter out to school districts to notify them that due to a shortage of COVID-19 tests, schools are currently unable to host test-to-stay events.

In lieu of test-to-stay events, school districts may move classes online at schools that meet the threshold. The Davis School District now has nearly one-fourth of its schools moving temporarily online. While returning to remote learning creates some difficulties for staff, parents and students, a district spokesperson said it is also proving to have some benefits.  

Out of 92 schools in the Davis School Distict, 24 are now online, or moving online.  

“The best instruction we have is face-to-face,” Director of Communication and Operations Chris Williams told ABC4. He added, “No question about it.”  

This fall, Davis School District (like districts statewide) began hosting test-to-stay events in accordance with Utah Senate Bill 107. The purpose of these events is to test students for COVID-19, identify the students who are positive, and then have those students isolate at home. 

“Those who were tested were removed from the building, so we knew that the students (who remained) there were healthy,” Williams stated. Williams explained that this made test-to-stay events beneficial by allowing students who tested negative for COVID-19 to continue learning while those who needed to isolate still had access to their schoolwork.   

When the state first released the letter to school districts outlining how to move forward with remote learning, there was some confusion in how district officials should act. However, as the initial confusion cleared up, the district began to notice some benefits of having schools move to online learning.  

“Attendance is up,” Williams told ABC4. He explained that it’s up across the schools that are now holding classes online. He continued, “I talked to a teacher yesterday who said she only had two students missing from her class.”  

When a school moves to remote learning, it is a temporary closure that lasts five days. This is in accordance with the CDC’s current isolation recommendation for people who are positive for or exposed to COVID-19.   

According to the letter: “Utah Code requires schools to offer in-person instruction at least four days per week. In effect, this means that if a school has provided in-person instruction Monday through today this week, the school has met the statutory requirement and is free to offer remote learning on Friday.” 

However, the state is allowing school boards to overrule that through January 24, for schools that hit the threshold that would otherwise trigger a test-to-stay event. With this exception, the Davis School District continues to monitor COVID cases at its schools.  

“Every night we get those numbers from the county health department,” added Williams. “Those are the official numbers that we rely upon.”  

On Tuesday, the Davis School Board voted to allow the superintendent and assistant superintendents to make the call to move a school online without the board’s approval. Williams explained that otherwise, the school board would need to meet every time a school met the threshold to vote whether to move the school to remote learning.  

After officials decide a school has met the criteria to move online, the district gives parents about a day’s notice. Williams told ABC4 this is done to give parents some time to make plans for daycare, etc. “It also gives our teachers time to plan that they have to go remote,” he added. “That is challenging but we’ve found that our teachers are able to do that which is fantastic.”  

The state legislature is expected to update the current remote learning guidelines later this month. Officials at the school district are anxiously awaiting additional instruction.  

“We rely on our teachers to do a fantastic job, which they do. We rely on our students to continue coming to school, which they do, and we’re grateful that parents have been patient during this situation,” stated Williams.