School districts preparing for digital learning amid COVID-19 concerns

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – All 41 school districts in Utah were on a technology call Monday with state educators to come up with a plan for digital learning amid the concerns surrounding COVID-19.

The school districts are preparing for a widespread breakout of COVID-19 after recent reports in our state.

Scot McCombs the Director of Information Technology for Canyons School District said, “There are many obstacles that we are going to face to do this.”

Access to the internet due to finical situations the main concern.

“We know 10 percent of our district is without internet,” said McCombs. “I believe that the actual percentage is closer to 15 percent within the district.”

The district plans on providing students in need with Chromebooks and filtered unlimited data hotspots for digital learning following the Child Internet Protection Act. Parents will need to sign a contract stating they will use the technology appropriately. Students can check out the equipment up to six months at a time.

“So families who don’t have access to technology are then able to access the technology whether it be the curriculum from our district or even access parents need to communicate with families outside of Salt Lake,” he added.

David Stephenson with the Alpine School District said, “a digital learning platform is something we would consider as we work closely with the health department regarding the potential for any school closures.”

The district sent home letters to parents indicating officials are looking into temporary cancellation of extracurricular activities, field trips, and large events.

Davis School District‘s Christopher Williams told ABC4 News, “The district is working toward having that ability [for digital learning].”

Granite School District’s Ben Horsely said the school district has the ability for digital or blended learning but programs are not district-wide and for each grade level.

In a statement Melinda Colton with the Park City School District tells ABC4 News:

Park City School District has both operational and educational plans in place from a preparedness standpoint.

Secondary school students in grades 6-12 (who all have district-issued laptop computers) are able to continue learning through accessing their coursework through the Canvas learning management system. Teachers are able to upload course materials, and students are able to submit their work remotely.

Elementary students in grades Pre-K-5 will have extended learning activities sent home this week in the event of closure and these materials are more paper-based rather than technology dependent. These materials provide content review versus “new” learning in order to provide practice and enrichment.

Tooele County School District‘s Marie Denson tells ABC4 News:

We have been talking about different options if we are impacted by COVID-19 in our schools. But we also need to take into account how to accommodate students who may not have a computer or internet access at home or if there are specific classes that do not transfer well for student learning online. We do have multiple classes using online platforms such as Google Classroom, or Canvas (to name a few) that students can continue using. And if they have a computer and internet access at home students can spend time on Lexia for reading, log into Utah compose, and other sites centered around practicing general education skills. If need be, we can also encourage at-home learning through reading, practicing math facts, assigning materials out of the text, etc. These are the discussions we are currently working through as to how this will be implemented at each grade level.

Weber School District is not planning on going to an online format for our schools. We are in the process of developing contingency plans in the event of a wide-scale outbreak of COVID19,” said Weber County School District Community Relations & Safety Specialist Lane Findlay. “Providing an electronic curriculum is part of those discussions, but it would be premature to say anything further without direction from USBE, the Utah Department of Health, and the Weber-Morgan Health Department.”

Salt Lake City School District is currently weighing its options.

Meanwhile, the State of Utah is sending out surveys to school districts addressing digital learning.

McCombs added, “They are preparing and hoping we as local education agencies are preparing as well.”

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