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2020-21 school year ‘won’t look the same,’ but Canyons District pushes on with reopening plans, superintendent says

Canyons District plan gives parents option of in-person instruction or distance formats

SHARE 2020-21 school year ‘won’t look the same,’ but Canyons District pushes on with reopening plans, superintendent says

Canyons School District buses sit idle in a parking lot in Sandy on Tuesday, April 14, 2020.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Canyons School District will resume in-person instruction five days a week when the academic year starts in August, according to newly unveiled plans. Distance learning options will also be available.

Regardless what option families select, the 2020-21 school year portends to be like no other, said Canyons School District Superintendent Rick Robins.

Robins said he is “very confident that we will be able to reopen our schools and provide a safe environment for all. It won’t look the same. I think it’s very fair to say that education in our world, our nation and in our state will not look the same going forward, but it really does provide some great opportunities for us to really reimagine what that might look like.”

Students will be asked to commit to their chosen learning format for at least one grading period.

The district will offer a 100% online platform in which students will be taught remotely through their school within the district. This option means students would be enrolled in a district school and would have access to counseling and other social-emotional supports, nutrition services, extracurricular activities and other programs. 

Students in grades 9-12 who enroll in the online program can earn core and limited elective credits through the district’s established online offerings. Elementary and middle school students who enroll in online core classes will be assigned a Canyons School District teacher.

“As an alternative to homeschooling, the district also will support parent-guided, at-home instruction with Canyons School District curriculum and access to services,” according to the district’s website.

“Students in need at all levels who participate in online learning will be provided a device and connectivity to participate fully in remote learning, and they will be considered a part of a CSD neighborhood school through which they can obtain non-academic services and participate in extracurriculars,” the website states.

In keeping with Gov. Gary Herbert’s recent order, students, faculty, staff and visitors will be required to wear masks fall semester.

The board voted 5-1 shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday to approve the action plan, with one member absent.

One Canyons District high school educator who addressed the school board Tuesday expressed trepidation about what the district’s plans mean for teacher workload and their health.

Samantha Webb, who teaches seven classes, including five Advanced Placement classes, said the changes mean she’ll be preparing for 21 classes.

Last year, her smallest class had 42 students, Webb said.

“Now I have five classes of collegiate students who are wanting to get degrees, and hopefully get credit before they ever hit college. And I’m being told that I have to prepare online, and in person, and in hybrid and account for all those students who may be quarantined at any given time. I’m wondering, from the board’s perspective, where am I supposed to find that time?” Webb said.

Webb also expressed concerns about contracting COVID-19 and the risks for her children, ages 4 and 18 months.

“Guys, I’m scared. I’m scared that I’m not going to make it through the school year. I am 27 years old. I’ve got kids at home and I’ve got a family. I get that people want to socialize, but I want to live,” she said.

Social distancing is not possible in her classroom, she said, noting that the school board meets in a space four times the size of the room she teaches in.

“I fit 30 kids in my class. How am I going to do that?”

Canyons board member Amanda Oaks asked for clarification on whether social distancing in schools was feasible given Utah’s large class sizes and school designs.

Robins replied, “I don’t think there’s a district in a state that will comply with distance and there is no way physically in the state parameters of our classrooms to achieve 6-foot distancing with all students. If that is the recommendation that we go forward, then that will require a split schedule.”

Even then, it would be difficult to meet that recommendation, he said.

The plan has contingencies in the event of positive COVID-19 tests, which include a school-level blended learning plan; split schedules, which are part online and part in person; and school closure with a 100% shift to remote learning.

Robins said key administrators are also planning how they will fill in for teachers who become ill or need to quarantine.

It calls for a “full-scale campaign to recruit subs, the best quality subs that we can,” Robins said.

“I do think this is an all-hands-on-deck situation,” Robins said, adding that aides and other school staff could temporarily fill the gap. The district’s online component is another option, he said.

Robins said the district’s end goal is “to provide this world-class education experience that our students in Canyons have come to expect and that we live up to that promise.”