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Schools struggle with the question of class on campus during COVID-19

This Oct. 28, 2019 photo, shows the facade of East High School in Salt Lake City. The iconic filming location of Disney's High School Musical still stands as a typical American high school, with a not-so-typical draw from tourists. (Kristin Murphy/The Deseret News via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY – In an ideal world, Salt Lake City School District Interim Superintendent Larry Madden says students would be back on campus this fall, but COVID-19 is complicating that.

Madden believes kids are missing out on the social and emotional benefits of being with their classmates.

“It’s very, very difficult for all of us. But it’s very difficult for kids to be isolated in ways that [the pandemic] has caused,” Madden says. 

But COVID-19 is forcing schools across Utah to make choices to balance the need for a high-quality education for students while maintaining safety for staff and students. 

If the Salt Lake City School District has to go back to all online learning, one way the superintendent thinks they can increase children’s social and emotional health is by allowing teachers to meet up with their classes in small groups like last semester. 

“Teachers have done groups where kids will get together, they might play games as a group, they might do a lunch group. Just a chance to get together. I know some schools did socials,” Madden said.     

COVID-19 and campus decisions

Though the district has not finalized its plans yet, Madden wants to assure families that students will still have access to services. 

“Even if we were remote, we would still provide students with the breakfasts and lunch that they would have…If students need help with counselors or social workers, they’ll still have access to those people. It’ll be a little different than if you’re in person, but they’ll still have access to all of those folks,” Madden says. 

As for students with special needs or who need academic accommodations, Madden says they will deal with them on a case-by-case basis. 

He also wants to make sure the district sticks with one plan. 

“Our goal would be that when we come back, I want to stay back. I don’t want to come flying back in just to find ourselves right back out again in a month. So, I think we’re taking a very cautious approach,” Madden said.  


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