As school districts across the state release tentative plans for a return this fall, the Deseret News has received a number of letters arguing for or against in-person learning and safety procedures. Read what they have to say below.

Who is liable for a student who contracts COVID-19 and dies?

I read every day what the schools will do to keep our students safe, but the question I would like to answer is: Who is liable for the death of a student who catches COVID-19 and dies, because the governor, with pressure from the president, told parents that it is safe to go back to school? 

Parents are trusting that our leadership is telling the truth. They say parents have a choice to enroll students for online school because it may be safer, but in another breath say students need school. Who is lying here?

Cases are going up. Why are we so hard-headed about this?

Close the schools for the first semester and save lives.

Mary Roberson


Does going back to school mean walking into danger?

Children are at low-risk — let’s reopen

Why is there great anxiety about opening the schools in the fall? The chart shown by the Deseret News on July 10 demonstrated that deaths per 1,000 people from COVID-19 for anybody under 24 years old was statistically zero. Children have the lowest risk of getting the virus and also have the lowest risk of transmitting it. Most of the deaths are persons over 65 years old. There has been a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, but the death rate remains well below 1% in Utah because most of the recent victims are under 40 and will recover. 

Schools can social distance and wear masks, but the data shows opening the schools — including the resuming of extracurricular activities — is a safe direction to go.

Gordon Christiansen


Balancing in-person and remote learning is key

Must all children wear masks to attend school? Hours of forcible mask wearing with itches, runny noses, disruption from studies and normal associations? Should not the decision to require masks to attend school best be left to parents and children? But how?

How about allowing most K-12 children to transition between school buildings with masks, and home synchronized learning without masks? This would be done through technology from the school with identical lesson time and content to allow the teacher to create one single content on the fly in an “extended classroom.” Lessons would be identical with most student classroom interaction live for transmission.

Such an idea would help social distancing in school classrooms by reducing school room class size for more distancing and offer flexibility to parents’ schedules. It would decrease exposure of all students to infection without universal mask wearing and students could freely circulate between classroom and home as desired. Let’s be creative here.

Gordon Young


Safety should be the priority

As the Salt Lake City School District Board has debated its reopening plans, some board members have told constituents that there will always be risks in life, even if just driving on the freeway. I want to be clear to the board that this is a callous interpretation of risk assessment which they must reconsider. 

In 2000, when there was a car accident on the way home from a debate trip, Eric D. Sabodski and Jeffrey Horman were killed and more students suffered injuries, including Erin Anderson, Matt Ehrman and Jeffrey’s brother Brian. As fellow high school debaters, these students were the peers of my husband and include some of my closest teenage friends. 

After lobbying by students and their families, the Salt Lake City School District changed policies for overnight trips with the express intent to keep students safer. Why now in this moment would the board not opt for additional policies to keep students safer, rather than quantifying the risks of COVID-19 as something families and educators should just accept? All of us in the debate community were changed by the loss of our friends and the lifelong injuries for others — not dissimilarly, all school communities will experience trauma from the deaths of teachers and administrators and long-term health impacts to students and family members. I implore the board to reconsider adoption of interim Superintendent Larry Madden’s proposed plan which keeps safety for all of us in mind.

Ashley Anderson 

Salt Lake City

No masks, please

Public schools probably won’t reopen this fall. Most parents are leery about sending their children to school to deal with masks, social distancing, etc. Effective teaching would be hard to achieve with the fitting of masks and keeping them on, as well as the distancing thing. It’s not a promising situation.

“The powers that be” seem to be oblivious to the fact that children are at lower risk of getting the virus. If children are allowed to attend school without masks and social distancing, then the school experience will be good and effective for all concerned. Otherwise, parents will elect to keep homeschooling their children online. If public schools are to continue, the children have to be allowed to have their education without being hindered with wearing masks, doing social distancing, etc. Keeping children’s education simple and direct is the key to successful education. Anything else is simply unworkable. Let’s do the right thing for our children. No masks, please.

Halvor Olsen

West Bountiful

Schools must ensure both safety and equality

Granite School District has been asked repeatedly about social distancing in the classrooms. District leadership has failed to offer a viable solution. Instead, Granite has consistently offered this statement: “Our surveys indicate that anywhere between 27%-51% of parents are uncomfortable sending their students back to school during a yellow and even green condition. Not all of our students are coming back and will use distance learning options. If up to 30% of our students are not in the classroom, it will allow for better options to help with social distancing, but the masks are for those circumstances wherein social distancing is not possible.”

We must demand Granite District adopt a safety plan which values the diversity of its population and ensures equitable access to in-person learning to ensure equity. District leadership has banked on students not returning to classrooms because the risk is too great. By failing to develop a plan where students and parents feel safe enough to attend, Granite has failed to offer an equitable and accessible education to its students. Students with disabilities and other at-risk groups benefit the most from in-person teacher instruction. However, Granite’s plan essentially denies access to its most vulnerable students.

We must demand Granite District adopt a safety plan which values the diversity of its population and ensures equitable access to in-person learning to ensure equity.

Jeorgi Bernard