COVID-19 impacts council meetings; school pantry serves pre-assembled meal kitsMar 17, 2020 02:51PM ● By Bill Hardesty
Thanks to a rule change, this is not how a South Salt Lake City Council meeting will look during the COVID-19 crisis. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)
By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]
COVID-19 has affected people’s daily routines, but how is it affecting the business of government and education in South Salt Lake City?
City Council’s foresight
Under the direction of the Council Chair Sharla Bynum, District 3, the council started in January to review their procedural rules. In what now looks like a prophetic move, the council changed their rule 3 to allow business to take place with only one person physically in the City Council chambers. All other council members can call in creating a quorum. This change will allow the council to continue the business of government.
Even though they could meet in this new format, the City Council meeting on March 25 was cancelled.
Fire Chief Terry Addison provided a COVID-19 update to the City Council during their March 11 meeting.
He shared a website from John Hopkins University showing in real time the spread of COVID-19. It can be found at JHU.edu. Select the COVID-19 information banner. Under John Hopkins Resources (on the right side) select COVID-19 tracking map.
Addison explained that when Salt Lake County declared a State of Emergency, it placed all municipalities in the county in a State of Emergency. This means that the county stood up a unified command structure allowing information and resources be used across the county.
“If we stay vigilant and practice good hygiene, we will weather the storm,” Addison concluded.
In other fire department news, Addison announced in a news release that the fire department “will restrict non-critical interaction with the public for the next 30 days.” Examples are station tours, classroom visits or ride-alongs.
This decision does not affect 911 responses.
The mayor’s State of the City speech was postponed. The speech was scheduled for March 18.
Planned census 2020 related events are cancelled through April such as the kickoff on April 1 and the large census event at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center on April 4.
According to Julie Taylor, public relations coordinator, “Effective March 17, all city buildings and facilities are closed to the public. City business will continue via phone, email, teleconference, and video conferencing.”
“This directive from Mayor Wood is to encourage social distancing,” Taylor added.
All meetings and events through March 31 were cancelled. This includes recreational programming like open gym or pickleball.
Because schools are under a “soft closure,” Promise SSL afterschool programs are shut down until March 27 when a new decision will be made. All classes and activities at Promise SSL community centers are also suspended through the same time period.
“Our intention is to resume to full services on March 30, pending guidance from federal, state, and local administrations and partner availability,” Kelli Meranda, director of Promise SSL, said.
Administrators and teachers are working hard to adopt an online learning environment, which is a great way to convey information but lacks the student interaction.
“Here they find their identity, enjoy ease of access to friendships, and find caring adults in each classroom to inspire them. Even though we are providing instruction to students during this dismissal online, we know that this will affect our students,” said Aaron Wilson, the principal of Granite Park Junior High School. “Their interactions with their teachers and each other, simply put, will be different. While we are doing our best to maintain a sense of community in our messaging, use of technology, and online lesson platforms, our students won't have the connectedness they would as in person. I have enjoyed seeing our students during this dismissal period, even though the interactions are brief, when they access their grab and go breakfast and lunch meals.”
Wilson spoke for his staff by saying, “We already miss our students. They inspire us and are the reason to show up to work each day. And, in many ways, our students feel the same.”
GPJHS has the largest school pantry in the district and is still available to students and their families.
“I am grateful to see that students were able to access our food pantry today. Their access to this service is not diminished; the only difference is that in order to follow the CDC guidelines to limit the spread of the virus, food pantries will not be shoppable. Pre-assembled meal kits are made available instead,” Wilson explained.
A question by a student does well to describe the personal impact.
“One student came to school today to ask me what this school dismissal meant for his role in our school musical. For him, and so many of our students, school is an important series of connections,” Wilson said.