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Salt Lake City students rally, call for return to in-person learning

Students and parents calling for SLCSD officials to allow in-person learning at a rally at East High. Photo Credit: Paul Nelson

SALT LAKE CITY — Some students in Salt Lake City gathered Monday to support going back to in-person learning.  Parents and students held rallies at three different high schools by the dozens, saying the Salt Lake City School District’s policy of strictly online learning is failing many kids.

Students rally at area schools

The Salt Lake City School District is the only district in the state that’s 100% remote learning for all students. That fact has plenty of students upset about their current situation.

“It’s been rough, if I’m being honest,” Josie Vaenuku, a senior at West High School, told KSL-TV. “I have a lot of siblings in my household and we’re all in the same district, so we’re all having zoom calls on at the same time. It’s loud.”

In response to months of remote learning, they planned to rally after school today at each of the district’s three high schools — West High School, East High School and Highland High School.

“I just want for our district to have a choice to go back to in-person school,” said Vaenuku. “All these other districts in Utah have been given the choice.”

At East High School, many students pointed to how other school districts have found ways to provide students with some form of face-to-face learning, and they believe SLCSD could bring students back to the classroom while enforcing safety standards to lessen the spread of COVID-19.

Mimi Levy said, “A lot of other schools are going back, and I think it’s kind of unfair.”

Other students like Ella Fiefia feel online classes don’t allow her the proper kind of back-and-forth she needs to learn properly.  When she is with her teachers, face to face, she can ask questions until she grasps what she’s trying to understand.

“When we’re online, it’s harder for me to learn because they just give us the assignments, type some stuff and tell us to do it,” she said.

Fiefia said she used to be a straight A student last year.  However, her grades are plummeting, now.

“My grades have just gone downhill, and I haven’t gotten a single good grade,” she said.

Lack of motivation hurting school work?

In addition to reports of depression and isolation, students say the completely remote learning format has negatively impacted their grades.

Quincee Alo, a sophomore at West High, says he typically posts 4.0 marks, but not this school year.

“I feel like grades were affected in a very negative way for me,” he said. “There’s only so much I can do, there’s only so much parents can do and there’s only so much teachers can do.”

Some students say feelings of isolation and poor grades go hand-in-hand. According to Vaenuku, many of her friends are suffering from a lack of motivation.

“I’m passing all of mine, but a lot of my friends have no motivation at all. They’re not passing anything at all,” she said.

East High School parent Emily Snow said, “These poor kids.  It’s so hard to motivate yourself, in your bedroom, could you imagine, as a teenager, curled up under a fuzzy blanket,” Snow says.  “They’re not motivated.  They’re not getting on Zoom.  They’re not doing their homework.”

(More students at East High, before their rally. Credit: Paul Nelson)

Snow believes recent reports of falling grades, district-wide, prove families need to have more options in their child’s education.

“For many families, staying online is going to be the best option.  For other families, it’s just not working,” Snow said.

To this point, the school board has voted to bring back elementary school kids in phases starting in January.  District officials say this plan will start with younger kids going back to school first, specifically pre-K, kindergartners and first graders reporting back to class at the end of that month.  Older students will coe back to school after that.

Related coverage: In-person learning a challenge for some teachers, students

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