SALT LAKE VALLEY — Salt Lake City schools are closed. The University of Utah has shut its doors. And the Canyons, Granite, Jordan, Murray, Park City, and Tooele school districts are among the many districts are keeping kids home during today’s intense winter storm.
Only a handful of schools in northern Utah are open today, but of those few, there’s one that has received harsher criticism that any other. The Alpine School District has decided to keep the doors of its 89 schools open, and — if online reactions are any indication — parents aren’t happy.
Some have come at the school with nothing short of fury:
Poor decision making Alpine School District. When UDOT tells everyone to stay off the roads, multiple surrounding school districts have closed, TAKE A HINT. Use you brains. Safety first.
Well done, well done!!!
— Seth Drew (@bugsterdrew) February 6, 2019
While other have hit at the school in more light-hearted ways:
Alpine school district pic.twitter.com/FskG3Do1ET
— rainey lay (@lay_rainey) February 6, 2019
But before the pitchforks rise too high, we wanted to give the school a chance to defend their decision. And so KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic invited David Stephenson, Alpine District’s Administrator of Public Relations, on the show to explain why they decided not to close schools.
Alpine School District defends its decision
“It is always a difficult decision on whether or not we close our schools,” Stephenson told Dave & Dujanovic, admitting: “We did get hit pretty hard in some of our areas here in Utah County.”
The district, he says, may have decided to keep its schools open, but that wasn’t a mandate demanding that every child come in. Instead, it was just Alpine’s way of letting parents make the decision for themselves.
“We prefer to keep schools open when possible so that the students can be cared for if a parent is unable to stay home with their children,” Stephenson explained. “If they feel like they need to keep their children at home, we honor that decision.”
Many parents, Stephenson says, took advantage of that option and kept their children at home — as did some of the teachers. Some schools in the district have had to combine classes, asking teachers to cover for colleagues who couldn’t make it.
Despite the rough conditions, Stephenson says that the buses were able to get kids to and from school “smoothly” — or rather, as he quickly corrected, “somewhat smoothly.”
“We have had a few delays,” he admits. Still, he says, “For the most part … the buses have been able to — with some delays — pick up the students and take them to school.”
Given the intense reaction from parents and others online, the Alpine School District will be discussing whether or not they made the right decision today and what conditions, in the future, should warrant closing their schools.
For his part, however, Stephenson believes that Alpine School District did the right thing by making sure their students had a place where they could receive care. He told Dave & Dujanovic, “We made the right decision to stay open.”
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