SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah (ABC4 News) – With the Thanksgiving break being dubbed as a ‘super spreader’ COVID-19 event, schools across the state are taking precautions to ensure a safe return to in-person learning after the Thanksgiving break.
South Summit School District, located in Kamas, is having their students participate in a remote learning week from Nov. 30 – Dec. 4. The hope is for the week of online learning to act as a ‘buffer-week’ which will allow students to learn while in a ‘quasi-quarantine’.
Universities across the state have long-ago planned on solely remote-learning after Thanksgiving break and not having students come back until after the Christmas break. However, the small South Summit School District is taking an approach that no other school district in the state is taking.
In a letter from the district’s superintendent, Dr. Shad E. Sorenson, said, “We know in-person learning provides many of our students with the environment and resources to be most successful. In order for us to return to in-person learning, it is critical that we take this remote learning week (November 30-December 4) seriously, both academically and health-wise.”
In the letter, Sorenson also mentions that the exposure time frame for COVID-19 is longer than one week, but a high percentage of people manifest symptoms within seven days of exposure. Therefore, having this buffer-week after the Thanksgiving break allows for that incubation period. Sorenson says that by this week, people should be aware of their symptoms and should not return to in-person learning until they are symptom-free/have recovered from the virus.
Sorenson says that the idea for the buffer-week of online learning actually came from a parent. Sorenson thought the parent’s idea was so smart that he proposed it to the principals within the school district and got it approved. A buffer-week of online learning and quasi-quarantining will also take place in the first week of school in January.
While South Summit School District has been lucky enough to keep COVID-19 case counts at bay and has not had to result to strictly online learning, they have been preparing for this buffer-week by having every Wednesday be a blended-learning day. Sorenson says that having these blended learning days on Wednesday has helped students and teachers prepare for these buffer-weeks and if the need arises to ever go fully remote.
The superintendent stresses that this week of online learning isn’t to be just an extra week of vacation. But, he says regardless of if the students are in their own home or still on Thanksgiving vacation, he hopes that they are quarantining as much as possible.
Sorenson also encourages students to follow the governor’s requests by following the statewide mask mandate and limiting social gatherings in order to further ensure they are healthy on Dec. 7 when in-person learning resumes.
Overall, Sorenson says that this decision to not hold in-person school until Dec. 7 is an effort to simply be proactive at keeping schools in session.
Sorenson concludes his letter by saying, “We believe that if we follow these protocols, schools will have a better chance of staying open and less students being quarantined. Working together we can stay safe to stay open.”
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