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Davis School parents torn about new 4-day in-person school week

Posted at 6:42 PM, Sep 24, 2020

FARMINGTON, Utah — Davis School District parents not happy with the school board's decision to move all elementary students to a 4-day in-person school week now have 24 hours to choose between sending their kid to school, switching to online, or something else entirely.

On Wednesday night, the board voted to start elementary schools on the new schedule beginning Monday, with secondary schools to follow on November 2.

For parents and teachers who advocated for the four-day schedule, the move is great news for them-- if their kids attend elementary school.

But for those not comfortable sending their children back, it has left them with a tough choice and little time to make it.

The day after Samantha Wursten and her daughters Ella and Lucy showed up to the Davis School Board meeting in support of staying on a hybrid schedule, they were faced with figuring out if Ella and Lucy will continue to attend Sunburst Elementary in Layton.

"It's a heavy decision," Wursten said.

There's a lot weighing on her mind. She said her daughters are social and want to have time at school, but doesn't feel four days a week is safe.

"I'm really just feeling like I personally cannot send them with the new four-day plan," Wursten said. "Just doesn't feel right to me."

Wursten has the added pressure that the Davis School District needs to know what she wants to do by the end of the week. She has one day left to choose.

"We have such a short time to really find what's going to be the best fit for our family, and i'm sure other people are in the same boat," she said.

She's right-- other families are in the same boat.

"Having to make this kind of a decision, it kind of feels like I can't make the right decision because feel pressured to do it," said parent Bacall Hincks.

Her son and daughter attend Canyon Creek Elementary School in Farmington. She said her kids are in a language immersion program, and her daughter is in a speech Individualized Education Program.

Because of that, Hincks feels her children are better off attending school like they have been for two days at a time on the hybrid schedule.

But they've also got a high-risk family member at home, so Hincks explained that a four-day in-class week with little to no social distancing in classrooms doesn't work for them, either.

The Davis School District and board have both said that it will be impossible for some classrooms to spread desks out and keep social distance between teachers and students when elementary students return to full class sizes. They said they've ordered hundreds of Plexiglas barriers to put in classrooms.

The district also sent an email to parents Wednesday night, letting them know that there is still time to switch to the online Davis Connect School.

Principal Stephane Mouritsen said their enrollment rose from 100 students before the start of the school year, to 5,750.

In the last week, the transfer numbers have been a wash. Mouritsen said the number of students transferring to online has been about the same as the number of students transferring back to in-person school.

The district is giving elementary school parents until Friday to make the switch, before Monday's new schedule start.

She explained that the Davis Connect curriculum is on par with what students are taugh in an in-person class, with the same pacing.

Mouritsen described the 80 elementary teachers as "fabulous," and said they are using fun engagement strategies to get kids to participate.

While feedback this year has been varied, she said by and large the kids are loving it and parents are grateful for the online school.

"It's personalization. That really is what we're all about," Mouristen said. "So, we try to make whatever a student needs, what a family needs, it needs to be personalized to them."

She encouraged families to give them a try, and said she thinks parents will be plesantly surprised on what they see going on in the classrooms.

Hincks doesn't want her kids to go completely online. Because of that, she indicated that she might just go with the decision she called "inevitable."

"We're leaning toward four days," she said, adding, "With the hope that we're not going to have to suddenly pull our children out because of high incidents of cases."

Wursten is considering pulling her daughters out of the school district altogether.

"I do plan on home schooling," she said. "But I'm not sure what option I'm going to go with at this point."