SALT LAKE CITY — In a unanimous vote late Tuesday night, Jordan School Board members gave Superintendent Anthony Godfrey the authority to move schools online if faced with mounting COVID-19 cases or other pandemic-related issues.
When Thanksgiving break is over on Monday, students attending 15 schools in the district will return to in-person learning. Four schools — Butterfield Canyon Elementary, Foothills Elementary, Joel P. Jensen Middle School and Oquirrh Hills Middle School — will return to in-person learning on Dec. 7.
However, Godfrey will now be able to transition any school in the district to virtual learning if, over two weeks, the school has either a 1% positive rate of COVID-19 among students and faculty or 15 cases; 10% of its students quarantined; or a 10% absenteeism rate.
Godfrey and the board did hold some reservations to a sweeping return to in-person learning, including the reality that many students will be congregating in large groups over the holiday.
"Coming back to school five, seven days after Thanksgiving, that's kind of the most dangerous time," Godfrey said.
Godfrey can also make the transition if there are any "extraordinary circumstances." If he is uncomfortable doing so, he can defer to the board members who will then decide in an emergency meeting.
"We are not going to eliminate the anxiety here," Godfrey said. "There isn't one right answer, but just clarity about the process to the greatest extent that we can provide, that I think will help."
Board members hope that shifting the authority to Godfrey to decide which schools will need to transition on a case-by-case basis will streamline the process and cut back on the number of emergency meetings called by the board.
During a special meeting on Nov. 11, the board voted to move 14 schools in the district online in the wake of rising rates of both absenteeism and COVID-19 cases. A week later, five more schools transitioned to a virtual model.
"We've been having a whole lot of emergency meetings … we've seen patterns emerge," said board member Darrell Robinson.
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated 19 schools in the Jordan School District will return to in-person learning on Nov. 30. Actually, 15 schools will be returning that day, and four additional schools will return to in-person learning on Dec. 7.