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3 Jordan District elementaries, 2 more middle schools shift online due to COVID-19 impacts

In Utah, shifting elementary schools to virtual learning modes has been rare

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Herriman High School students leave school Friday, May 31, 2013.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

RIVERTON — Three elementary schools and two more middle schools in the Jordan School District will shift to online learning due to increased numbers of students and staff in quarantine and mounting challenges to teaching in the face of COVID-19 spread.

The district school board met in emergency session Wednesday, voting to pivot the following schools to virtual learning on Monday and return to in-person learning on Dec. 7:

  • Joel P. Jensen Middle School, West Jordan.
  • Oquirrh Hills Middle School, Riverton.
  • Butterfield Canyon Elementary School, Herriman.
  • Foothills Elementary School, Riverton.

Meanwhile, students at West Jordan’s Westvale Elementary are scheduled to attend school on their regular schedule Thursday and Friday and transition to online learning for the two days prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. Students are expected to return to in-person learning on Nov. 30.

These are the first elementary schools the Jordan board has moved to virtual learning.

Foothills Elementary School’s entire administration team has been affected by COVID-19, said board President Bryce Dunford.

“We just didn’t feel like we could really provide that school with structure that it needed in an in-person setting and so it was just better to just send everyone home and run school from home,” Dunford said. The school has nearly 950 students and staff.

Westvale Elementary School, meanwhile, has been hard hit by high numbers of students and staff on quarantine. The school serves and employs a total of 439 people, 94 of whom are quarantined, according to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard.

There have been relatively few cases of COVID-19 associated with public elementary schools in Utah, but they also struggle to find substitute teachers and are affected by quarantines of staff and students and infection rates in their communities.

One public charter school, American Preparatory Academy, Draper 2, an elementary school, temporarily shifted to online learning in September but by and large, elementary schools switching to remote instructional modes have been few statewide since the start of the school year.

Schools’ COVID-19 mitigation strategies have been largely successful, Dunford said, but the school board has become increasingly concerned about schools spreading their resources too thin as teachers instruct in person and work with students learning from home.

“There comes a point where we just need to go all virtual so that we’re not half in person half virtual. To me, this is what it’s really coming down to, the load on the teachers and their ability to deliver high-quality education,” Dunford said.

These schools are in addition to the 14 middle and high schools the Jordan Board voted last week to move to remote learning until the end of the month.

Those schools included Copper Mountain, Elk Ridge, Fort Herriman, Hidden Valley, Mountain Creek, South Jordan, Sunset Ridge, West Hills and West Jordan middle schools.

At the time, the board voted to issue a vigilance letter to Oquirrh Hills Middle School community but on Wednesday voted to place it on remote learning.

The board also voted at the earlier meeting to move Bingham, Herriman, Mountain Ridge, Riverton and West Jordan high schools to online learning. Copper Hills High School is already on virtual learning. The district has six traditional high schools.