As a parent in Davis County, I have watched the Utah COVID-19 case numbers rise with great alarm. Even more alarming is the decision by the Davis School District’s Board to transition from a hybrid model, that facilitates social distancing in classrooms, to all students meeting together for four days a week, just as cases are rising quickly. I am baffled by this. I have written board members, and the most common defense is that Davis County numbers are still relatively low right now.
Davis County is not an island. It is the third-largest county in Utah by population and is ranks second in population density. The largest outbreaks are occurring in the two counties with the largest populations. Logic follows that the third most populous county will be next if we let our guard down. We are not protected from future outbreaks just because we have been successful at avoiding outbreaks thus far.
I was very saddened to hear of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing this last week. She was known as an eloquent dissenter. In one of her dissents, she used an analogy that lends itself to the current situation in Davis School District. To paraphrase, she said throwing out precautions because they are working is like “throwing away an umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”
She was not referring to the current pandemic, but the sentiment is the same. In terms of the current COVID-19 situation, it’s raining in Utah, and Davis School District is throwing out the hybrid model, our umbrella, right as the rainstorm gets worse. It should not do this. Davis schools have had fewer problems than we are seeing in other areas, and the hybrid plan is one of the reasons why. Please don’t throw it away now; please let us keep our umbrella.
Davis School District created a framework to help combat the spread of COVID-19. The plan was called the “Big Five.” These five guidelines for keeping people safe are hygiene etiquette; stay home when sick; cloth face mask; physical distancing; and clean and disinfect. These are not new. They are the same things we have heard from the CDC and our own Utah health experts.
Out of the five, the two I most often hear repeated from experts are the masks and physical distancing. There is a statewide school mask mandate and that will stay in place for the schools so thankfully that layer of protection will remain intact. With all students at school at the same time, the district cannot adequately ensure physical distancing. This is especially true in secondary schools where class sizes are larger. If you have these guidelines, they should be followed, not just put on a poster and hung up in a classroom.
There are no easy choices facing parents or school boards right now. These are hard times. I was personally relieved when Davis came out with the hybrid plan because it allowed a good compromise between in person learning and distance learning for my children. In ideal circumstances, five days in school is the best for them educationally. However, safety is my greatest concern. I felt the plan was good for the safety of not only my family but for the community at large.
I recognize that right now it is not just about me and my kids. It is about all of us — about keeping all of us safe. I believe education is so important. I know the fewer hours in school right now are not ideal for any kids, but I hope our kids are learning other lessons, like how we have to sacrifice to keep others safe.
Now is not the time to throw our umbrella away. Let’s keep the hybrid model in Davis schools.
Heather Payne is a licensed educator in Davis County. She has four children who attend Davis School District schools.