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South Salt Lake Journal

Educational options available for parents concerned about school reopening

Aug 11, 2020 12:58PM ● By Bill Hardesty

While schools open later this month, some parents might be concerned about the spread of COVID-19. There are three options to consider: homeschooling, virtual schooling or Granite distance learning. (Photo by Annie Spratt/Unsplash)s

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

It’s August and the 2020 school year is about to begin. For some parents, they can’t wait to see the school bus. Others are concerned about spread of COVID-19 in a traditional classroom.

They consider such data points such as Zippia, a career website, reported that Utah ranks No. 1 in most crowded classrooms with an elementary class size of 24.2 and a secondary class size of 29. They wonder if the COVID-19 numbers will increase.

Granite School District, like other districts, is working hard to make school safe.

According to the GSD website, “Students will be isolated by classroom groups, face coverings will be required, interaction will be lessened, and social distancing and regular cleaning will be the norm. There will be no large gatherings, and the flow of movement will be controlled. Learning, however, will take place as it always has, with modifications to keep everyone safe. Schools are developing their site plans, which will be available to view July 30 at the latest.”

What alternatives are there for students and parents if they are more comfortable keeping their children at home?

There are three choices: homeschooling, virtual schooling and Granite distance learning.


Technically, when schools shut down in March, students were not participating in homeschooling. They had school at home. Homeschooling is much more in depth. It takes commitment and time.

The foundation of homeschooling is parents managing the education of their children at home. The management can take a variety of forms. At one end, is the unschoolers. Families believe in self- or child-led learning. They rely on real-world experiences. They learn by living.

At the other end is school at home. They set up a classroom and use structured curriculums and rely on schedules to keep things going well. There are many variations in the middle.

Homeschooling does not mean you are going it alone. There are many resources online to help parents teach their children. It also might look different within a family. One child might do best in a classroom environment, while another child participates in homeschooling. Since parents are in charge, it can be customized to the need of family members.

One option in the middle is a co-op or a commonwealth. In either case, families join for support and enrichment opportunities such as field trips, art projects and group classes. Most classes are taught by parents who volunteer their time. 

Co-ops and commonwealths are built around core values shared by the families who participate.

For example, the Shining Light Commonwealth’s mission statement is a “Christ-centered community of families dedicated to leadership education. Our mission is to inspire self-governance, scholarship and public virtue in each of our members through mentoring and positive peer influence.” 

Often there are costs to participate and membership is limited. Families are expected to provide service to the group.

Another option is to join a homeschool support group. This is a less structured group then a co-op or commonwealth. However, they are often formed around a geographical area or along common values (e.g., The Christian Homeschool Oasis, LDS Homeschool Connection). These groups provide field trips and other socializing activities. They often offer workshops for parents.

There’s also a hybrid approach where the student learns at home but attends public/private school for certain subjects such as music, band or theater.

Virtual schooling

This is the high-tech version of homeschooling and many of the same benefits and concerns apply.

The biggest difference is that virtual schooling offers parents and teachers access to certified teachers and professionally created online school curriculum and lessons. Most virtual schools are tuition-free and are offered for grades K-12.

With virtual schooling, students can meet with teacher and staff in a safe online learning environment for guidance, instruction and help when needed.

Another difference is that schoolwork can be done any time or anywhere. This allows families greater flexibility.

Like with homeschooling, the structure can vary according to the needs of the family and the student. There are programs that provide a more traditional educational setting even while learning remotely (e.g., to a very personalized approach (e.g.,

Granite distance learning

The third option is to use Granite distance learning, which is what students were using in the last quarter of the past school year. However, GSD has promised a new and improved system.

“Distance learning will follow the same basic model as this past fourth quarter, but of a much higher quality based on feedback and our experiences. It is expected to keep pace with in-person instruction. The District has ramped up trainings and resources for teachers to assist them in providing distance learning. Student Wi-Fi access will be expanded as much as possible, and Chromebooks will be available for check out,” states the GSD website. 

The District also anticipates that students will have the flexibility to move to or from distance learning by quarter.


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