LEHI, Utah — As the final bell rang at Belmont Elementary School in Lehi Tuesday, dozens of kids with masks on walked outside. Some were met by loved ones with masks on as well, others lined up, masks on, for the school bus.
Tuesday marked the first day of school for the Alpine School District, Utah’s largest.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) was picked up last week from the state, Superintendent Kimberly Bird said, and each school has enough to last a month or two. The district has already spent more than half a million dollars on COVID-19 related expenses but said a more accurate number will come later. Bird said it’s been important to find a safe back to school plan.
“We believe we need to have kids back in school,” she said.
Sending kids back to school wasn’t a simple decision for some parents.
“It’s caused us a lot of sleepless nights to decide whether or not this was the right choice,” said Brooke Byington, the mother of first-grader Ike.
Ultimately, Byington decided to send her son back to school in person because she education is extremely important, especially at his young age, she said.
“We were just hoping that he was able to just keep [his mask] on all day. And as we’ve been practicing with him at home before all this,” she said. “He actually just started playing ninja at home with it and he had a lot of fun with it and it worked out great.”
Ike said his favorite part of the day was recess and coloring, and when asked if it was hard to wear his mask all day, he said “not really”.
About 10 percent of students in the Alpine School District opted to do distance learning.
Masks are required in all Utah schools, per an order from Gov. Gary Herbert. There have been arguments and protests for and against schools reopening in Utah, plus the reopening plans. Each district was required to create a reopening plan that was submitted to the Utah State Board of Education.
For more information on the COVID-19 guidelines for Utah schools, click here.