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South Salt Lake Journal

All GSD schools now on same schedule; ventilation upgrades being put in place

Aug 26, 2020 02:28PM ● By Bill Hardesty

In an emergency meeting, the Granite School District Board makes changes to the elementary school schedule. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

On Aug. 17, the Granite School District (GSD) Board met in an emergency session to adjust the elementary schedule.

Originally, elementary schools and secondary schools had different schedules. Secondary schools—junior high schools and high schools—are having in-classroom instruction Monday through Thursday. Friday will be a distant learning and planning day. The elementary schools would have in-classroom instruction Monday through Friday. Friday would be a short-day, allowing teachers planning time.

This plan was based on the notion of having dedicated in-classroom teachers and dedicated distant learning teachers for those students choosing the District’s distant learning option. However, with 90% of the students selecting in-class instruction, this puts a difficult burden on smaller elementary schools.

For example, if there are two fourth-grade teachers with 60 students and two fifth-grade teachers with 60 students it is impractical to pull out one teacher for each grade. So, one teacher is pulled out for distant learning which requires a combined fourth- and fifth- grade distant learning class and maybe even an in-class combined class.

In addition, given the low online enrollment, the combined class most likely would have more grade levels combined to make a class.

“We are on a big dial here and as we continue to receive guidance from the health department and if infection rate or caseloads increases, we fully expect that some of our schools will need to quarantine. People ask what will happen. We will adjust the dial,” said Ben Horsley, communications director for Granite School District.

The main driver for adjusting the dial is three infections in a class or 15 in a school. Horsley pointed out that when you consider the size of a high school, 15 infections is a low threshold.

On Aug. 13, the Granite Education Association wrote an open letter to the GSD Board asking for change.

“…Requesting that a weekly schedule similar to secondary be provided for elementary schools (Monday-Thursday students face-to-face, educators managing both modalities, and Fridays with all students online and an opportunity to prepare for their online students for the next week).”

In response to their concerns, the board adopted a change unanimously.

Elementary schools’ schedules will be the same as secondary schools. Elementary schools were also given the power to adapt to their unique school needs.

Impacts

The most immediate impact on parents is the need for three additional hours of childcare. In some families, because secondary school students are also not at school, older siblings can take care of younger ones. 

An impact on teachers is that now all teachers will teach both in-classroom and online. Which can add more difficulty for teachers. However, it also allows for continuity for the students on Friday and if a class or school has to switch to full-time online instruction. 

The board also approved two additional no school days at the end of the first quarter. Oct. 21 and 22 are now professional development days and will allow the District and schools to make any adjustments.

Zenger proposal

Boardmember Todd Zenger made a motion in the meeting for a more modified schedule for all grades. His proposal would mean 50% of the students would attend every other day. Horsley pointed out this schedule would mean high school students would see all of their teachers only once a week. 

The proposal addressed a concern of the GEA.

In the open letter of Aug. 13 GEA wrote: “GEA just completed a survey of its membership. There were over 1,400 responses. A very large majority, over 69%, feel unsafe with the district’s current plan. Over 55%, 792 educators, say, “No amount of PPE and cleaning will be enough without the ability to create adequate distance between people in the building,” and only 8% say they have no concerns with Granite’s current plan for the 2020-21 school year.” 

The proposal never received a second and therefore was never discussed in the Aug.17 board meeting. 

Safety measures

Superintendent Martin Bates reported at the meeting that GSD has tens of thousands of face masks and face shields for teachers and students.

He also reported they have 10,000 desk dividers and 3,000 teachers’ shields available. A teacher shield is three-sided plastic placed onto the teacher’s desk. The desk dividers are three-sided plastic or self-standing barriers on a student’s desk.

Another safety measure GSD is putting into place concerns air flow. Proper air flow is one factor, along with face covering, hand washing, and physical distancing, that helps reduce the spread of viruses.

The District is installing hospital-grade filters, known as MRVS, into all HVAC systems and is expected to be completed by the end of September.

“The current requirement from the CDC that we have received is to have fresh air exchange twice a day. We already provide three fresh air exchanges an hour. Not only that but we continue to run our HVAC system throughout the evening. So, those fresh air exchanges are happening constantly for the safety of our students and staff,” Horsley said.

Having more fresh air exchanges and installing hospital-grade filters is above and beyond the current requirements.

Online learning concern

During a post meeting interview with the media, Horsley mentioned that last spring 20% of students did not log on at all to online learning and that an additional 15-20% did once.

“Over 25,000 students struggled with distant learning either did not do it at all or only participated minimally. In respect to that, we cannot write off 25,000 students in Granite School District. We know and our board knows there needs to be an in-person component. I think the number of families committed to in-person instruction is a reflection of that,” Horsley said.

These surprising numbers occurred despite the district providing a Chromebook to students and using Wi-Fi enabled buses as hot spots. The district now has a 1:1 ratio of Chromebooks as well 1,000 portable hotspots that can be checked out by students along with 27 Wi-Fi buses.

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