DRAPER, Utah – A Draper charter school campus is the first in the state to close down because of the number of COVID-19 cases on their grounds. Officials with American Preparatory Academy reported 15 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are switching to online education, for now.
When the school year began on August 19, roughly 45 percent of the students decided to attend class from home. However, the school will now “pivot” to distance learning, exclusively, until they reopen.
“We feel this brief pause in on-campus learning is best for our families, and we look forward to seeing our students back on campus very soon,” says Executive Director Carolyn Sharette.
This closure only affects the school’s Draper 1 campus and Sharette says their other campuses will continue with their current plans since COVID-19 cases are not as high. For example, there have been only five confirmed cases in their West Valley campus.
Sharette says they’re not sure when in-person classes will resume.
“I think this will be a brief closure. If it was a ‘required’ closure, it would be two weeks. Since it’s a ‘recommended’ closure we have some flexibility,” Sharette says. “September 11th was the date they told us it would end if it was a two-week closure.”
American Preparatory is not the first school to make major changes due to spikes in COVID-19 cases. Pleasant Grove High School is modifying its schedule because of a recent uptick, and Utah Military Academy in Lehi is moving to online learning after nine staff members tested positive.
Educators in other districts say they’re keeping a close eye on the number of confirmed cases in their schools, but, the rumor mill is reportedly churning out a lot of bad information that may be scaring students and their families. For example, the Granite School District has seen only 46 confirmed across all 90 of their schools. Spokesman Ben Horsley the health department recommends an entire class isolate themselves if there are three or more cases, and that an entire school would need to switch to online learning if 15 or more people test positive.
Horsley says, “We’re not near that threshold in any of these cases, but, based on the rumors we’re hearing, [we have] dozens of cases.”
According to Horsley, they’re hearing more rumors of cases than seeing actual cases and this could be partly due to confusing information coming from health officials. He says SLCOHD will notify parents if their child needs to be isolated after having direct contact with a confirmed patient, but many parents may misunderstand that as their child actually having COVID-19.
“That being said, does that mean your kid is sick? No. That’s why we’re taking all these precautions,” he says.
Horsley believes it’s important for parents to know that the vast majority of viral spread isn’t happening at schools. It’s mostly spreading in homes or at large gatherings students are attending off-campus.
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