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Health experts urge Salt Lake City to resume some in-person classes

The Salt Lake City School District is being encouraged to get kids back into class, although the school board is delaying a decision. (PHOTO: KSL-TV)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A pair of health experts encouraged the Salt Lake City School District to get kids back to class in-person, although the school board delayed a final decision. 

Call for Salt Lake City to go back in-person

A pair of the nation’s leading experts on the coronavirus pandemic recommended that Utah schools utilize rapid testing of teachers to get some kids back into classrooms. White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, met with Utah’s Senate president, Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, and other state leaders over the weekend.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, addressed the Salt Lake City Board of Education Tuesday and shared some of the things he learned in a briefing from Adams.

One of the main messages from Birx and Redfield, he said, is that COVID-19 primarily spreads in communities.

“It’s not occurring in the schools and this is what we’re finding in Utah,” Weiler told the board. “We’re often told that we need to follow the science. This is from the CDC and Dr. Fauci’s, his office, telling us ‘Get your kids back in school.’”

The Salt Lake City School District was the only district in Utah to start the school year solely in a remote mode. Presently, it remains in that same remote-only mode, though some teachers are bringing small groups or individual students in for learning.

Weiler later conveyed a message from Adams to the Salt Lake board and school district.

“He said we need to get the kids back in the schools. So I would just ask the school board to follow the guidance from the public health experts. I believe that kids need to be in school, that they do best in school,” Weiler said.

Plan put forward, no action taken

On Tuesday, Salt Lake City School District Interim Superintendent Larry Madden proposed a plan where elementary school students would start returning to in-person learning in phases starting in January. That proposed plan would start with pre-kindergarten and kindergarteners, while bringing in grades 2-6 in later weeks.

Under Madden’s plan, the district would still offer remote learning options for families who do not feel safe returning to school. Secondary students would also stay in remote mode.

Despite the proposal being put forward, the school board took no action. Some board members argued that a survey is needed to help gauge parental preferences in regards to in-person learning and remote learning moving forward. They add that administrators have already been preparing some sort of survey.

“Without that information, it’s hard to get to nuts and bolts of the (return to school) plan,” Madden said.