SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah governor has given his seal of approval to the Utah State Board of Education’s requirements and recommendations for K-12 schools to reopen this fall — a document that addresses a host of issues ranging from social distancing to cafeteria practices.
All public schools are required to create and share their plan on their respective websites by Aug. 1 so families have time to plan for the coming school year.
“We appreciate the thought, care and work that went into these requirements and recommendations,” Gov. Gary Herbert said in a Monday news release. “We appreciate that so many health care professionals, teachers, administrators, parents, classified workers and others devoted their energies into creating these guidelines to help keep our children and our school employees safe and healthy this coming academic year.”
The State School Board’s plan, titled Planning Requirements and Recommendations for K-12 School Reopening, defines a compilation of recommendations and requirements that schools will need to incorporate into their respective reopening plans in order to safely resume in-person learning this coming fall.
The plan addresses a host of considerations related to reopening schools such as social distancing, wearing of masks, riding school buses, cafeteria practices, hygiene practices, contact tracing and large-group gatherings.
The governor’s Office of Management and Budget requested the Utah State Board of Education create the plan as an addendum to the Utah Leads Together Plan. Now with the governor’s approval, the plan will be worked into Utah’s Phased Guidelines for the General Public and Businesses to Maximize Public Health and Economic Reactivation.
Utah school board members are stressing the importance of local school districts andcharter schools completing their plans no later than Aug. 1 so families will have time to plan accordingly.
“This needs to be posted. Parents can’t make a decision about day care or whether they send their child to school or not on Aug. 10,” said board member Carol Lear during a June 18 meeting.
Recognizing that not all schools and districts are alike, the plan is not entirely made up of requirements. It includes many recommendations that take local control into account, allowing districts and charter school boards to implement the recommendations that work best in their particular school setting.
This plan will “help school districts and charter schools define what to do, but also enable adaptability and innovation at the local level in determining how to make schools safe this fall,” according to the press release.
While the plan requires faculty and staff to wear face coverings when maintaining physical distancing is not feasible, it requires schools to implement hygiene standards as part of regular instruction.
It also recommends implementing remote or other learning options for students whose families don’t want them to be in a classroom learning environment due to high-risk status or personal decision.
Another recommendation for schools is to assign seats or small groups to support contact tracing.
Requirements are largely broad, such as requiring districts and schools to ensure group gatherings like dances and assemblies “are organized with health and safety principles and requirements in place and, as needed, in consultation with local health departments.”
Schools will be required to ensure products like hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, soap and water are readily available.
“We will be digitally meeting with local school leaders throughout the state shortly to provide tools for applying appropriate principles and levers to mitigate risk of spread in school-specific settings,” said Sydnee Dickson, state superintendent of public instruction. “We have innovative problem solvers working in our public schools and we will work with districts and charter schools as they create their plans to keep our students and staff safe this coming school year.”