SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — School districts across Utah are wading into uncharted waters as both teachers and students are being told to stay home.
The venture into remote learning comes as fear of the coronavirus outbreak grows by the day.
Numbers on the rise
Following this past weekend, in which thirteen new Utah cases of the virus were announced on Saturday alone, the total number of confirmed cases is up to 28.
Reports are placing half of those cases in Salt Lake County, alone.
In anticipation of the continued spread of the virus, Governor Gary Herbert announced on Friday that all K-12 public schools in the state will go through a “soft closure.”
The move will initially only last for two weeks, with Herbert saying he will reassess the shutdown on March 27.
“We’ve been doing everything we can to get ahead of the virus,” said Herbert during his press conference on Friday. “It’s better to be too early than to be too late.”
For the interim, schools will be canceling in-person classes, while continuing to provide other functions.
Most notably, districts are staying open for any students who need a meal or a safe place to go.
First to say “stay home”
The movement first gained traction when the Murray School District announced its immediate closure on Thursday. It came after they learned of a potential “close contact to COVID-19.”
“Our world at the Murray City School District changed Thursday morning at about 8:00 am as we learned of a potential close contact to COVID-19 within our district. This was our moment to shrink or shine – and we chose the latter,” – a message from the district reads on Facebook.
Our charge as educators is to protect students and staff from anything that would compromise their ability to do what they do. And this was a clear threat.
On Monday, the Granite School District released emergency school meal details.
The district says meal service will begin Monday and continue through March 27. It will be unavailable from March 19-23, due to spring break.
In a release, the district explains their daily schedule.
“Lunch Meals will be available 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM at all school locations, except for Hunter High School due to its recent closure. Breakfast Meals will be available from 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM for participating locations,” it reads.
Granite School District spokesperson Ben Horsley says the goal is for students and their parents to not even come inside a school.
“It’s a grab-and-go methodology,” he explains. “Just come on to the campus, there will be some tents outside for parents to drive up with their kids, grab their lunches and their breakfast items and go.”
Meanwhile, Utah universities and colleges are already making the move to cancel classes and have students stay home.
Additionally, several events and sporting activities are being postponed or canceled throughout the state.