NewsLocal News


Utah schools prepare for possibility of kids not returning to class

Posted at 9:54 PM, Apr 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 01:38:44-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Monday was the first day back to school after spring break lots of kids across Utah.

This year, "back to school" means back in front of the computer. Not back in the classroom.

"I would normally be out greeting kids first thing in the morning, and I walked in, and there's no kids. There's no traffic coming through our parking lot. There's no directions that are needed," said Stacy Kutzhals, the principal of Eastmont Middle School in Sandy. "It's not the same. It's not a good feeling... I chose middle school for a reason. I love the chaos of it!"

Kutzhals said her new challenge is finding ways to get kids up and running online, giving them fun activities like virtual scavenger hunts and talent shows to help them stay engaged.

"I've just been trying to reach out to kids that I know might need that extra connection," Kurtzhals said. "We have been reaching out to families of kids that have not logged in, making phone calls. We've done home visits, knocked on the doors. You know, step our six feet back!"

David Styler, the superintendent of Millard School District, said the toughest challenge has been the transition. Some families, especially parents, are now using the internet for the first time.

"We're over 50 percent low income in our district," Styler said. "We have about 3,000 students in our district. About 2,200 of them needed a device to take home or asked for one... We have some families that just aren't able to provide the same access, so we need to fill that gap!"

In order to help students get connected, the Millard School District has parked school buses with WiFi hotspots in some of the neighborhoods they know need help.

"The huge majority of our kids are able to get their work done every day," Styler said. "We've also had community groups, we've had churches... we've had local businesses that have opened up their internet for our kids. Everybody's working together to help us make sure that these kids don't have gaps, and that is just so appreciated."

"We have about 730ish students in our school, and we're down to about 30 kids that have not logged in yet," Kutzhals said.

Although some kids enjoy the new system, the goal set forth by Governor Herbert is for students to return to class by May 1st.

Most districts are unsure if that original plan is still in the cards.

"We’re hopeful it will be May 1st, but our expectation is not May 1st," Styler said. "I don't think any of us would be very surprised if it extended out a bit further than that."

"I can’t predict that. I would love for everybody to come back May 1st," Kutzhals said. "This is not how we want to teach."