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Jordan School Board clarifies COVID-19 case triggers for virtual learning

Posted at 10:36 PM, Oct 27, 2020

RIVERTON, Utah — The Jordan School District Board of Education again made tough decisions Tuesday night on how to handle COVID-19 case spikes in schools, including votes on whether to transition some schools to online learning, or extend online learning.

One huge focus during Tuesday night's work session, which took place in the hours before and after the general session, was clarifying some of the district's policies in relation to the transition from in-person to online school.

"We just want to give some clarity, so that people aren't guessing what's going to happen. That they kind of know, well, here's generally the policy," Jordan School District Board President Bryce Dunford told FOX 13.

Board members discussed at length if they should decide on a hard trigger point for the switch to online — especially for schools that have already gone through a two-week online learning situation and have transitioned back to in-person classes.

"We have had three schools transition to virtual learning," Dunford said. "Now that they're coming off and they're resetting, we want to know what's going to happen if [COVID-19 cases] creep back up again."

He's talking about Mountain Ridge High School, West Jordan High School and Bingham High School.

Dunford said that cases probably won't "come down and stay down" after students can again attend class in person at their school. He stressed that's because they are seeing case growth outside of schools with families attending events.

During the work session, Dunford asked at what point do they make students go back to online learning, and when do they — for a second time — transition back to in-class at the end.

"Where do we start to say, 'Okay, now we're resetting and starting over?' And when do we just let it ride?" He asked.

The answer the board came up with: When a high school approaches or hits a 1-percent COVID-19 case rate, the Jordan School District Board of Education will call an emergency to talk about acting upon a virtual learning schedule.

"What we've learned in the past is that when a high school starts hitting 1 percent, it starts breaking down at the seams," Dunford said.

If a school hits a 2-percent case rate, it will automatically transition to virtual learning.

The board will then reexamine the case rate after two weeks and decide whether to reset and let students back or continue to stay the course.

For elementary schools, the school board decided upon 15 cases as the trigger threshold for an emergency meeting.

The board expressed wanting to tackle the issue on a school-by-school basis, rather than coming up with strict policies.

Right now, the only school in the district currently online is Bingham High School. Students are set to return to their physical classrooms on Monday.

The board debated on whether to extend the virtual learning for another week, saying that cases and number of quarantines within the school have not dropped as much as they would like.

In the end, board members decided upon waiting another couple of days to see what number look like, and potentially calling an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss it more if necessary.

Riverton High School also came up for discussion. There are currently 30 students and staff at the school infected with COVID-19.

The board voted on whether to take Riverton High online, and ultimately decided against it.

One thing that is set in stone moving forward this year: The school schedule.

The board approved continuing the current schedule of four days in-person with a Friday virtual learning day for the remainder of the school year.

"I would love to say that COVID's going to be gone at the end of this semester and we don't need to do this anymore, but it's not. It's here to stay," said School Board Vice President Tracy Miller. "I'm sure this is what we're going to be dealing with for the rest of the school year."