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SL County gives $10 million to schools for safer re-opening

Posted at 6:02 PM, Aug 05, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County is giving local school districts $10 million to help with safer re-openings.

Mayor Jenny Wilson allocated money to the five different school districts across the county to buy personal protective equipment, upgrade technology, or increase cleaning and staffing as they prepare to resume classes later this month. The money comes from the federal CARES Act, said Darrin Casper, the county's chief financial officer.

In an interview with FOX 13 on Wednesday, Mayor Wilson said the money came out of conversations with district superintendents on ways the county could help.

"There was a very common theme on staffing needs to keep the kids safe," she said.

Granite School District will get the most money -- just over $3.8 million, because of its size. District spokesman Ben Horsley said the money would buy PPEs.

"We’re also looking at how we can possibly use the funding increase to increase supervision, bring in extra support personnel, cleaning shifts, those types of things," he said.

The Jordan School District will get $1.6 million; the Canyons School District will be allocated $1.4 million; Salt Lake City School District will get $2.6 million; and the Murray School District will receive $444,549.

Mayor Wilson told FOX 13 she is also looking at partnering with culture organizations to provide some outreach to schools. The Clark Planetarium, a county facility, is planning some things for students. The Salt Lake County Health Department is preparing to offer assistance as schools resume. Mayor Wilson is also contemplating whether to repurpose some county facilities that remain closed to assist with other COVID-19 needs.

The state is moving forward with school re-openings as districts approve plans for how students can safely return to the classroom. Some districts have adopted plans that include a mix of online and in-person classrooms. The Salt Lake City School District said it will be online only for now.

The Utah Department of Health recently released guidelines for re-opening schools. Those are still being worked on. In an interview with FOX 13 on Tuesday, Lt. Governor Spencer Cox said "modified quarantine" -- which allows a student to come to class even if they're exposed to COVID-19 so long as they're symptom free -- is being modified. The idea, which has been successfully used with essential workers, faced public pushback when proposed for children.

"They are now working on some changes to that," Lt. Gov. Cox said.

Salt Lake County has seen COVID-19 cases decline recently. Mayor Wilson said she believed it is due in part to her mandate for face coverings. On Wednesday, she reiterated her call for Governor Gary Herbert to issue a statewide mask mandate.

"We’ve seen our numbers decline, which is great news. We’d like to them decline even further before we go back. But yeah, I remain concerned," Mayor Wilson said. "We have five school districts with different plans. I do think there’s a recognition when cases occur -- and they will -- there’s a system set up by each district. And I think we just all have to be ready for kids to return home quickly when there are outbreaks."