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Corner Canyon High modifies school schedule due to spike in COVID-19 cases

21 confirmed cases associated with the school over past 14 days, most of them students

Corner Canyon High School in Draper is pictured on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020.
Corner Canyon High School in Draper is pictured on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — After a sudden increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases associated with Corner Canyon High School, the Canyons School District will temporarily switch the school to a split schedule to reduce the number of students in the building at one time.

There have been 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19 associated with the Draper high school over the past 14 days, according to the Salt Lake County Department of Health. The vast majority of cases were among students. Some 2,300 students attend the school.

“The way we count cases associated with the school is, it’s anyone that had in-person contact at that school for at least 15 minutes over the past 14 days from the time we became aware of the case,” said Ilene Risk, Epidemiology Bureau manager with the Salt Lake County Health Department.

The schedule change will be implemented on Tuesday, according to an email sent to families Friday evening. No students will attend the school Monday to give teachers and administrators time to pivot to the new schedule.

As the email was delivered to families, Corner Canyon’s football team was playing Alta High School on the Corner Canyon campus.

Half of the student body, with last names A-K, will attend school Tuesday and Wednesday, for their A and B days. On Thursday and Friday, students with last names L-Z will attend their A and B day classes. Siblings from blended families who have different last names will be allowed to pick a day to attend together.

The school could return to in-person learning five days a week on Sept. 21, the email states. However, it also states if cases associated with the school continue to rise, the schedule may remain intact “or other additional precautionary measures may need to be taken with the guidance of the Salt Lake County Health Department.”

The number of cases at the school has surpassed the Utah State Board of Education’s threshold of 15 cases when it is recommended that the school shift from in-person learning to remote instruction, Risk said Friday.

“Once a school hits 15 or more, then our recommendation from a public health standpoint and laws is to go 100% virtual. It’s somewhat up to the school district. They are very concerned about it as well, very responsive. We had two calls with them yesterday, just trying to work through all this and trying to help make the best decisions,” Risk said.

The school district’s statement notes that there has been no clustering of cases on the Corner Canyon High School campus. “None of Corner Canyon High’s classrooms have had to be placed on quarantine,” it states.

An earlier communication to parents urged “vigilance among Charger families,” with respect to public health practices intended to stem the spread of COVID-19 infections.

Canyons School District spokesman Jeff Haney said school district administrators issued the initial statement after meeting with county health department officials much of Thursday to review and investigate reports of COVID-19 in the school community.

“It was important for us to alert the community that we’re diligently looking into the reports and we want it to be as up front with them as possible about our actions to keep the school as safe as possible,” he said.

Parents would have already been notified by health or school officials if, during the contact-tracing process, their child was identified as a student who may have been exposed, the statement said.

Meanwhile, parents are asked to continue monitoring their children for symptoms of COVID-19 and to contact health providers immediately if their child develops a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.

“Please keep your child home if they are ill. Now more than ever, it is important that we observe physical distancing recommendations and wear face coverings while on campus or participating in after-school activities,” the email states.

Elsewhere in Utah, a handful of district and charter schools have shifted to modified schedules or fully online due to COVID-19 outbreaks.