Jordan School District approves plan for 4-day in-person classes in fall

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WEST JORDAN — Class will be in session, in-person, for Jordan School District this fall.

At least, it will be four days per week.

The Jordan School Board unanimously approved a motion Monday that would bring students back to school for in-person classes Monday through Thursday, with each Friday being used for online classwork, small-group learning, and additional teacher consultation.

Superintendent Anthony Godfrey used the words “guided,” “directed,” “supervised,” and “accountable” to describe each Friday. Board members, who approved the motion 7-0, said they hope it will not be taken as a three-day weekend each week.

Four other options were presented to the board, including one for a “traditional, in-person” class model, or what education looked like prior to the state’s soft closure of all Utah schools due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Another plan would’ve seen half of all students attending every other day, with new groups of small classes alternating on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday or Tuesday-Thursday schedule. A similar plan would’ve seen students report to class on alternating weeks, with every other week spent learning online, as well as another that would have alternated between mornings and afternoons.

The district governs more than 56,000 K-12 students in Bluffdale, Copperton, Herriman, Riverton, South Jordan and West Jordan.

Providing an extra day where students are not required to be in the classroom would allow custodial staff members to deep clean buildings at least weekly, in addition to regular sanitization provided of high-touch surfaces and common areas, school officials said.

"It’s not a day off school," Jordan school board president Bryce Dunford told KSL TV. "It’s an accountable day. It will be a chance for teachers to work with students who have fallen behind. It will be a chance for small-group activities who need extra help."

District officials said students who don't feel comfortable learning in the classroom can take an online curriculum delivered by teachers who are at a higher risk of COVID-19. The district plans to email to parents its plan for reopening as early as Tuesday morning.

The four-day, in-person school week would also fall in line with current medical advice from infectious disease experts, who have identified a “pre-symptomatic” phase of COVID-19 diagnoses. Under the scheduling model, any individual who is infected by the virus may take up to 2-3 days to exhibit symptoms — and by the time a patient is symptomatic, they could presumably be more easily removed from the classroom and isolated to prevent further spread.

In a lengthy meeting that began Monday morning and lasted past 2 p.m. MDT in a virtual and socially distant format, the board also discussed additional plans for resuming school in the fall, such as face coverings, hand washing and disinfecting of surfaces and central air systems regularly.

Among several changes was the discouraging of whole-school assemblies unless proper social distancing can be maintained, while large-group meetings will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Overnight travel would also be suspended through the end of the 2020 calendar year, except for travel related to state tournaments. The Utah High School Activities Association has not formally approved a plan for reopening prep sports in the fall.

Out-of-state travel by athletic teams will be prohibited, and all field trips are canceled through the end of 2020. An exception would be made for an out-of-state marching band competition, board members agreed.

More than 15,000 parents, as well as just over 3,000 teachers, responded to a survey sent last week asking for the school year to begin with a traditional, in-class curriculum, district officials said. Board members acknowledged that some parents may be upset with the decision, but said the schedule change was made with an eye toward the “health and safety” of students, faculty and teachers in the district.

The board will meet again on July 28, when it is anticipated that more details on the plan will be available.

Also on Monday, Davis School District revealed plans for a return to school, which includes face coverings for teachers and students, as well as an increased emphasis on hygiene etiquette, and physical distancing and disinfecting of surfaces, when possible.

Contributing: Deanie Wimmer, KSL TV

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