Schools in Logan will join Cache County in a full-day schedule, minus 45 minutes each day, starting Monday.
In the Board of Education’s meeting on Tuesday, Superintendent Frank Schofield recommended the move due to the low number of COVID-19 cases in the county and cited success with a similar schedule in Cache County School District. The seven-day rolling total in the county is 13 cases, with a positivity rate of 7%.
“Our students and staff have done an outstanding job adjusting to the realities of COVID-19,” he said. “Our schools and our community infection rates suggest that the things that we’re doing as a community are helping. They are making a difference and they are working to decrease the spread of COVID-19.”
Comments on the options for the remainder of the school year from parents, staff and students ranged from “from one end of the spectrum to the other and everywhere in between,” Schofield said, but according to data from a survey sent out in the district, more than 80% of respondents approved of the process to determine when to move to more traditional schedule.
Speaking as both an educator and president of the Logan Education Association, Jessica Zsiray expressed gratitude for the “great detail and concern” put into the district’s reopening plans.
“I do want to express support for an increase in all of our other safety measures and not a relaxation of other protocols beyond distancing,” she said, “as we are increasing the risk for both staff and students by having more people in a room for longer periods of time.”
The desire for maximum safety is conflicted, she said, because despite the challenges, every teacher wants to be in front of a full classroom. Lynne Bryner Ballif, a music teacher in the district who watched the meeting on Facebook, agreed.
“Nothing will ever be perfect, ever,” she wrote online. “So go forward.”
Boardmember Larry Williams acknowledged the higher risk coming with a move to full-day instruction and said an increased focus on safety measures needs to be maintained to prevent spreading the virus and related school closures.
“As a former educator, online learning is not the ideal way to deliver instruction,” he said. “We were forced by COVID last spring to jump into online curriculum, online learning. … I can tell you from experience that we can’t ask a teacher to duplicate online exactly what they’re doing in the classroom. It doesn’t happen that way.”
The concern was echoed by boardmember Frank Stewart, who said “‘What’s going to change?’ may seem like a simplistic question if we go back to full time, but ‘What’s going to stay the same?’ I think is just as critical, or ‘How are we going to increase safety in the classroom?’”
Other than teachers no longer supervising lunch and the number of students in the school at any given time, according to Schofield, not much will change. While schools’ square footage makes social distancing difficult, he said there will not be a relaxation in terms of mask wearing, hygiene or cleaning protocols.
Boardmember Kristie Cooley asked whether continuing the soft opening’s half-day schedule or a hybrid A/B schedule would be alternatives to moving to a full-day schedule.
Schofield countered both saying it wasn’t cost-effective to continue, with the buses running twice a day versus once, and Board President Ann Geary reiterated the importance of daily face-to-face contact as the ideal.
“I have been told for the last I don’t know how many years that the most important thing in a child’s life is a quality educator in their classroom,” she said. “And that face-to-face learning changes lives and truly accomplishes our mission to ensure our students leave our schools ready to create a positive future for themselves and their community. I know a lot of children suffered because we were not in school last year.”
The new schedule for students not enrolled in LCSD online will have no late start on Wednesday, and just like Cache County’s schedule, the 45 minutes after students leave at the end of the day will be reserved for teachers to complete additional tasks related to online learning and being available to help students at home.
The board unanimously voted in favor of the plan and determined that if a school needs to close due to 15 or more cases of COVID-19 infection in a two-week period, per state guidelines, an emergency board meeting will be called to determine whether a school needs to adopt a hybrid reopening plan after quarantine.
Schofield’s recommendation was that if a hybrid plan was deemed necessary, the board should consider not extending the plan to kindergarten and first-grade classes.
“Those students can’t self-teach to read,” Schofield said. “If we go to a pure hybrid schedule with first graders, we are saying that students will only have two days of school a week … unless they have someone sitting with them, side by side doing early literacy activities, they will not develop the early literacy skills that they need.”
If a school needs to quarantine, Schofield recommended the hybrid schedule be enforced through the end of the semester to avoid schedules constantly bouncing back and forth from quarantine to full-day throughout the year.
More information on the district’s schedule can be found on its Facebook page or www.loganschools.org.