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The move, approved by the district education council on Thursday, is a response to the high number of coronavirus infections that continue to plague the Utah capital. After more than two hours of discussion, members decided it was less risky to keep children at home for at least this month in the fall of this year.
“Getting our children back to class is important,”; said Melissa Ford, president of the board, at a virtual meeting. “And we intend to do it as soon as it’s safe.”
The decision came at a much more tame meeting than the chaos that colored the council’s debate on the subject last week, which ended in a dead end. However, one member, Michael Nemelka, still voted against the plan on Thursday in a 6-1 roll-call vote. And with that camera off, he said he would continue to believe that teachers who wanted to continue distance learning were “lazy.”
Ford and others opposed the remark.
Schools in the city will now start online on September 8 – with a two-week delay that will give teachers, parents and students time to prepare. The district intends to monitor cases of the virus when a safe return to class may occur. Any reopening will be aligned with the mark in the middle or end of the quarter to avoid compromising classes and classifications. The first quarter ends on October 30.
To return, interim superintendent Larry Madden said the district looked at two benchmarks. The average positivity rate in a larger district, he said, will need to be at the level of 5% of those tested. At present it is 9.32%. The district monitors cases per 100,000 people. It will need to be less than 10 to reopen. It is 17.9 right now.
“We want to start the year carefully,” Madden said during a news conference after the meeting. “Our goal is to maintain a balance between the health and safety of our students and their education.”
The 13-page plan of the council also states what a hybrid or personal return would be like when it is possible to return.
However, even with online courses, it will be possible to continue sports in the district. And those who need more help can schedule personal meetings with their teachers or counselor, Madden said.
Now all teachers are trained in the best methods of distance learning. All materials are centralized on a single district site, so families don’t have to invent multiple platforms. In addition, the school district has purchased an additional 6,000 laptops for those who do not have access to computers at home, and is working to ensure that all students have an internet connection – one of the main property problems remaining online.
The discussion was watched by almost 1,500 parents and teachers on Thursday. When the decision was announced that it would continue in practice, the comment section broke out “What a relief!” And thank you! “And” Excellent! “
The Salt Lake City school district has been a focal point for the state to reopen schools. The district is the only one that remains in the area – in the capital – still considered “orange” or at a slight risk of spreading the coronavirus. Under this statute, classes are to be held at a distance.
Madden said he appreciated the feedback from both parties and helped the district do what it called “the most difficult decision possible.”
The majority of the board supported this plan. Member Nate Salazar said he liked being “rooted in science.” Member Katherine Kennedy added that most of the voters she heard agreed with.
Others asked how the district would specifically help the most vulnerable students, and when they heard the answer, they joined the vote on the plan. Sandra Buendia, the district’s executive director for equality in education and student support, has made sure that she focuses on children who are learning English, have disabilities, are refugees or just need a safe space. The district sends staff to every household it needs, especially those that were difficult to reach to make sure students had what they needed to start classes.
All students and parents will have the opportunity to meet with their teachers two weeks before the start of school. And they can use this time to defend their needs. The district will also evaluate each child to see who might be lagging behind in the spring and pay more attention, Buendia said.
Programs for breakfast and lunch will continue for families.
At one point during the discussion, member Michelle Tuitupou asked, “How will you work with working parents?” And Nemelka, a board member who called teachers “lazy,” laughed.
Last week, during a board debate, a solitaire starred on a second computer screen that could be seen on a live broadcast, and many residents were upset. This week, when it was his turn to speak, he announced that he would not turn on the camera for this reason. “That’s why you don’t have my picture now,” he said.
Nemelka, a retired teacher, went on to say that she did not understand why the teachers did not want to return to class. He compared them to firefighters and doctors and workers who worked “despite the danger” during the pandemic.
“They have the courage to applaud them for it. Why do some teachers not want to take a place in front of the class? ” he asked. “For those teachers who are afraid of the life you live, you have to look at yourself.”
He said that personal teaching is the most important part of the job. “I still believe that online teaching is a lazy way to teach K-12,” he added.
As he said, some of the comments called on him to resign. Nemelka’s chair is elected this year, with one person running Jenny Sika against him.
Ford began the meeting on Thursday by saying that the way the board discussion last week was inappropriate was largely a concern of concern with Nemelka, as well as Kennedy pushing to end the debate at 6 p.m. other plans. Students, Ford said, must be a forum priority.
“Last week, other priorities and personal interests were removed from this focus,” she said. “These distractions have no place at the board meeting.”
She has just said that the highest concern is the protection of students. While many prefer teaching people and see that Ford added as a more effective way for children to learn, it is too dangerous in the current conditions in the city.
However, the district is still preparing for when it would be safer to open up by modifying the air systems in schools, installing sanitary stations on playgrounds and placing Plexiglas barriers. Because returning is the goal, Ford said.
The school plan states: “It is not in the best interest of our students or families to proceed indefinitely with the possibility of distance learning, nor is it our intention.”