SALT LAKE CITY — Corner Canyon High School will remain on a split schedule until Sept. 25.
Late last week, the school district announced a split schedule would be observed until Sept. 21 to help reduce numbers of students in the school building with the intent of slowing the spread of rising numbers of COVID-19 cases.
County health officials said on Friday that there were 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19 associated with the Draper high school of 2,300 students.
Superintendent Rick Robins also recommended that the district create its own dashboard to report on COVID-19 cases at its schools to provide greater clarity to the school community.
The school board debated the issues for hours, their meeting lasting after midnight. It will reconvene later this week to further discuss related issues. Several board members expressed frustration over state health definitions of outbreaks and state officials’ recommended actions.
Robins said it’s important that the community understand there have only been four coronavirus cases at Corner Canyon attributed to school exposure, the others were tied to community exposure.
“So, I’d say that because I think that’s important to compliment everyone’s efforts and in doing everything that they can at our school sites to keep our students and our teachers and staff as safe as possible,” he said.
Educators who addressed the board said the school district had not followed the guidelines approved by the school board earlier this year, which they said called for closing schools for 14 days to conduct a deep cleaning and to pivot to online learning once cases at a school exceeded 15.
“Not following the guidelines presents many issues, including it doesn’t inspire confidence in the CSD’s (Canyons School District’s) ability to make decisions regarding COVID-19 outbreaks. Disregarding your own reopening plans erodes trust in the board, so it’s important that we maintain trust,” said Julie Beane, a Corner Canyon High School teacher, speaking on behalf of members of the teacher association.
Erika Bradshaw, president of the Canyons Education Association, spoke in support of teachers, noting increases of COVID-19 cases at both Corner Canyon and Alta high schools.
“Teachers are dismayed that CSD has failed to follow their approved reopening plan that states they will follow the health department guidelines,” she said.
Bradshaw also expressed concern for teachers who are preparing in-classroom lessons, digital lessons and assisting quarantining students.
“Many are at their breaking point and I am concerned that we are going to lose a large number of teachers due to resignations not at the end of the year, but now and throughout the year. The current workload is unsustainable and CEA is hearing from numerous teachers daily about their stress and frustrations,” Bradshaw said.
She shared a communication from one teacher that said, “I’m tired, I’m scared and I don’t feel appreciated.”
Parents who addressed the school board Tuesday night urged keeping the school open and maintaining the ability for students to attend school in person.
Michelle Ahlstrom, the mother of children who attend Corner Canyon High School, said she worries about students’ social-emotional well-being “because they’re getting really depressed. I’m seeing that in my own kids and we’re a pretty healthy family. But I worry about kids who don’t have the support of their parents at home where their parents work, you know, full-time or even two to three jobs. How did those parents help their children if we’re to go completely online or even a hybrid?”
Robins said officials continue to learn more about COVID-19 transmission and that school transmission is different than community transmission.
Dr. Brandon Webb, infectious disease specialist for Intermountain Healthcare, supported establishing a dashboard “because having data is worth 1,000 words or 1,000 numbers. It’s crucial.”
A dashboard will provide greater clarity, he said.
Presently, rates of COVID-19 transmission at schools are very low, Webb said. However, recent increases of COVID-19 cases in Utah are among people ages 15-24, which suggest the school district needs the community’s assistance to curb cases.
“We need to think creatively about how we can influence that demographic to behave differently to interrupt the cycle,” Webb said.
Robins said the demographic is highly mobile “and so social that it’s just super difficult to control.”
Earlier Tuesday, the Salt Lake County Health Department released updated data that shows there have been 83 confirmed cases of COVID-19 associated with Canyons School District over the past two weeks.
On Monday, the health department dashboard indicated there were 61 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days associated with the Canyons School District. A day later, it jumped by 22.
It is the highest number of cases over the past 14 days among the five school districts in Salt Lake County. Canyons District serves about 34,178 students, according to 2019 state fall enrollment figures.
Granite School District, with 63,989 students, according to 2019 state figures, had 47 cases the past 14 days. Jordan School District serves 56,339 students, according to 2019 enrollment numbers. It had 61 cases over the same period.
Murray School District, with some 6,300 students, had four new cases during the 14-day window, while Salt Lake City School District, which is on full remote learning, had 12. Its 2019 state headcount was just over 22,000 students.
On Friday, a spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases associated with Corner Canyon High School resulted in the school switching to a split schedule to reduce the number of students in the building at one time.
On Friday, there were 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19 associated with the Draper high school over the past 14 days, according to the Salt Lake County Health Department. While the numbers of cases represented a small percentage of students and staff at the school, Robins noted it quickly jumped from two cases to 21. Most were students.
On Tuesday, health department officials declined to provide further breakdowns of cases by specific schools or how many are students or adults.
Confirmed cases associated with schools include anyone who had in-person contact at a school for at least 15 minutes over the past 14 days from the time county health authorities become aware of the case.
Correction: An earlier version said the school board didn’t vote on the superintendent’s proposals to extend the split schedule or district-level dashboard. It agreed to the actions, which district officials said Wednesday were administrative functions.