ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 News) — The Washington County School District Board of Education finalized their school reopening plans Monday according to orders and guidelines set by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and the Southwest Utah Public Health Department.
Administrators allowed a one-week comment period for parents to voice any concerns with their preliminary plans but said they only received approximately 430 comments, or less than 2.25% of all families. The vast majority of those who did comment reiterated their opposition to their students’ being forced to wear masks, the district said.
“I would hope that these parents and children would be kind and sensitive to the consideration these teachers are putting into their work,” the district’s director of communications Steve Dunham said. “They are so eager to be there for the kids while putting themselves and their families at risk.”
Starting August 13, in-person classes will be held on a traditional Monday through Friday schedule. Friday will be an early-release schedule for all grades K-12 for teacher and staff professional development and training and deep cleaning of schools. Elementary, intermediate, and middle and high schools will be let out at 1:15 p.m., 11:45 a.m., and 12:30 p.m. respectively.
Masks will be required on buses, when arriving and leaving school, in classrooms, in common areas, while waiting in line during lunch, and in transition periods, with occasional exceptions determined on an individual basis for qualifying health conditions. Face coverings will not be required during lunch or recess. School officials are encouraging parents to wash them daily. All bus drivers and teachers and staff will also wear masks.
Staff are working to disinfect daily, including high touch points such as drinking fountains, doorknob, counters, desktops, and electronic devices. Teachers will encourage consistent hand washing and sanitizing in classrooms.
Parents who may opt out of in-person schooling have several options, which include virtual at-home learning, online classes through Utah Online, or a blended in-person and virtual combination. With virtual learning classes, students would attend from their home, using a curriculum facilitated by a WCSD teacher, which can include long-term or short-term absences including a quarantine period. Students taking full-time online classes through Utah Online are required to withdraw from their neighborhood school.
“We’ve put a lot of money into professional development for our teachers, so we think we’re much better prepared than we were in March,” Dunham said. “We’re working on training additional teachers in online education to provide additional help for students if we need to return to remote learning again.”