‘Ginormous’: Southern Utah schools seeing crowded classrooms amid pandemic

Southern Utah News

HURRICANE, Utah (ABC4) – School starts this Thursday for students in Washington County, but some classes may look a bit more crowded than usual.

Brandi Johnson of La Verkin went to Hurricane High School years ago, and now her daughter, Kilin, is starting her first year this week.

“I’m excited to meet new people,” says Kilin.

“It’s ginormous compared to when I went here and it’s just going to keep growing, I’m sure,” says Brandi.

Washington County School District officials say they are expecting 1,000 to 1,500 new students this year, a consistent number from previous years, but it poses it’s challenges as officials say they are struggling to find staff.

“We’ve had to shuffle some teachers around, but we’re getting there,” says Steven Dunham, the Washington County School District spokesperson.

Dunham says they’ve moved about a dozen teachers around after seeing a decrease in enrollment in some schools and an increase in other communities. He says there could be up to 30 students in one classroom.

“What we’ll do then is bring in part-time help to help that teacher so that she’s not alone with that many children,” says Dunham.

With more students in one class, school officials say they have to keep a watchful eye amid the COVID-19 pandemic and masks only being suggested.

“We learned a lot last year, opening five days a week, for in-person instruction and we’re going to continue to implement some of those best practices that we learned. That will include social distancing as much as possible, that will include frequent sanitization of common areas, hand washing, hand sanitizing, all of those things we can control, there have been some things taken out of our control, that includes masks,” says Dunham.

Dunham says they need to hire four educators and nearly 50 part-time teacher assistants for classrooms as they continue to see rapid growth in Washington County.

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