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Utah school district shortens schedules due to 'unprecedented student and staff absenteeism'

Posted at 8:37 AM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-27 10:46:57-05

A Utah school district is shortening their class schedules due to "unprecedented student and staff absenteeism."

The Cache County School District said on Wednesday it's shortening elementary and secondary school days to help students and staff cope better.

Meanwhile, the Alpine School District, which also happens to be the largest school district in the state, originally stated they were also modifying their class times due to similar circumstances. But, later modified their plans, saying they needed more time to consider.

"The Board of Education has asked for a pause on last night's decision of moving to a temporary shortened school day to allow further study and review of operational challenges, feedback, and logistics," said David Stephenson with Alpine's communication department. "Schools will continue on the normal schedule until further notice. The board will be considering metrics to address teacher fatigue. We want to make sure that decisions don't increase teacher burden or negatively impact student learning."

In a letter addressed to employees and parents on Tuesday afternoon, and shared with FOX 13, Cache County Schools said absentee rates were between 9-17% for elementary schools and 19-31% for secondary schools.

Schedules will change as follows starting on Jan. 31:

  • Morning preschool: 9:05 a.m. to 11:25 a.m.
  • Afternoon preschool: 12:30 p.m. to 2:50 p.m.
  • Morning kindergarten: 9:05 a.m. to 11:50 p.m.
  • Afternoon kindergarten: 12:05 p.m. to 2:50 p.m.
  • Elementary schools: 9:05 a.m. to 2:50 p.m
  • Middle and high school: 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

"Our priority is to keep our schools open as we know that students learn better in-person than online," said School District Assistant Superintendent Tim Smith. "Another priority is to ensure that our teachers have adequate time to prepare and to help students who are absent to catch up on their school work."

The letter said that increased cases of COVID-19, colds, flu and RSV is what caused the increased absences of students and staff.

Stephenson said another bit of good news from the Alpine district is that roughly 200 people have recently applied to be substitute teachers. He said once the background checks are completed it should have a huge positive impact on the ability to keep students in class going forward.

FOX 13 has reached out to several other districts and both the Granite district and the Washington County district said, as of right now, they have no plans to shorten their school days.