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Parents still deciding on whether to send kids back to school in person or online

Posted at 9:14 PM, Aug 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-11 23:14:48-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah kids will begin heading back to school throughout August. The overwhelming majority of parents tell FOX 13 they will be sending their kids back to school in person. Although, some say a mask mandate could change their decision.

As of right now, Salt Lake County is the only health department in Utah issuing a mask mandate. Whether or not county council will approve the mandate will be decided Thursday.

Read - Will Salt Lake County Council have the votes to overturn mask order?

The uncertainty with mask mandates in schools pushed Paul Gibbs and his wife to make the decision to homeschool their kindergartner. Gibbs is a kidney transplant recipient. Since he is high risk, he doesn’t want to take any chances, he said.

“He needs the chance to learn in person and interact with kids his age, but he also needs to be healthy, and he needs his dad to still be alive,” he said.

Read - Kids and COVID-19: now and then

Implementing a mask mandate would cause some parents, like Celsy Jensen, to keep their children home from school.

“If a mask mandate were to be in place at my children’s school, I believe I would homeschool them the best I can,” she said.

People should be able to make their own choices, Jensen said.

“It is harder to breathe with a mask on your face. I feel like they don’t get that personalization with facial expressions and things like that with teachers and friends and honestly I also feel like it puts a little bit of a fear factor in their life, it’s scary to them,” she said.

Read - Private schools included in Salt Lake Co. mask order for K-6 students

Marta Nielsen who has two school aged children feels the opposite, saying if there is not a mask mandate, her kids will learn online.

“We have been extremely cautious, and it would feel like such a waste to all of the sudden throw caution to the wind and send my kids to a place where there are a whole bunch of other people who are not vaccinated and not wearing a mask,” she said.

Some parents, like single mom Ali Avery, said they feel like they have no options and must send their kids to school despite wishing everyone would be masked.

“I don't have much hope that people will do the right thing to protect others in the community, though, so I anticipate this school year being an absolute circus with kids being out of school sick constantly. I just hope that I don't lose my job, my health, or my child's health because of other people's selfishness,” she said.

With a mask mandate in place last school year, Justin Hutchins chose to homeschool his children. While they are currently enrolled to go back in person, any sort of mask mandate would cause Hutchins to homeschool again.

“We home schooled last year for the entire year and the kids honestly thrived and still tested higher than their grade levels in placement tests for this year. If mask mandates are implemented in Utah County, we will remove the kids from the public school and be forced to home school again,” he said.

FOX13 NEWS reached out to every district in Utah to ask about online school options. Here is what spokespeople for the districts said: (This list will be updated as more districts respond)

  • Alpine School District-
  • Beaver School District- “Remote learning will be available when absolutely necessary, but we encourage all students to take advantage of the benefits of in-person learning as their first option for school.”
  • Box Elder School District-
  • Cache County School District- “We are offering grades 7-12 online options this year. That is on a quarter-based system. We are still registering for online and we don't have a current number. It is a difficult number to determine due to the fact we have some students who are full-time while others have a partial online schedule. Thus far, the number is much lower than where we were last year at this time.”
  • Carbon School District-
  • Canyons School District- “This year, we have launched Canyons Online, a new remote-learning program for students in the kindergarten through the 12th grades. Here is a link to the information on our website: https://www.canyonsdistrict.org/general-news/csd-begins-taking-applications-for-canyons-online-csds-new-tech-driven-innovation/ [canyonsdistrict.org] There are about 300 students who have registered for the kindergarten through eighth grade classes. The number of nine- through 12th-grade is fluid as students sign up and complete the classes during sessions throughout the year.”
  • Daggett School District: “Online will be offered next year on a quarter, semester or year basis—whatever they want. On-line is always an option in Daggett not just during the pandemic.”
  • Davis School District-
  • Duchesne County School District-
  • Emery County School District- “Emery is prioritizing in-person education. Learning options are available if circumstance does not support in-person learning. As of right now few if any students have requested online learning options. No additional teachers have been brought in with the purpose of facilitating online learning specifically.”
  • Garfield School District-
  • Grand County School District- “Online learning is an option for Grand County School District's 7-12 grade students. I don't know how many students have elected to be online, but I believe it is a very small number.”
  • Granite School District- “Granite Online Live is a live option for students K-12. We also have a self-paced option for student 9-12. Students can opt in or out on a quarterly basis. We anticipate around 3-5% of our 63,000 students will participate in some form of online learning. Granite offered online options previous to COVID. Last school year all teachers were required to offer both in person and distance instruction to ensure flexibility for families in the midst of a pandemic. This school year, we are using federal emergency funding to have exclusive distance instruction as described above.”
  • Iron School District-
  • Jordan School District- “Jordan School District is opening three brand new online, virtual schools this year. Rocky Peak Virtual Elementary School, Kelsey Peak Virtual Middle School and Kings Peak High School. They each have their own principal, teachers, school colors and mascots. We are still enrolling for all three schools so I don't have the enrollment numbers right now. Many teachers applied for these online teaching positions and we hired some really amazing educators to teach in our virtual schools.”
  • Juab School District- “Yes, online learning will be an option for Juab School District this year. This will be based on a quarter and semester basis. We do not know how many students will be moving into an online-only setting at this point. We have been made aware of 2 or 3 students district-wide at this point. But we will continue to be flexible to meet student, and parent needs as numbers may change. “
  • Kane School District-
  • Logan School District-
  • Millard School District- “Millard School District is not assigning teachers to work online this year. We have a very small demand for this at this time. We will work with families who are in need of additional options.”
  • Murray School District-“Parents move from remote learning to in-person learning now (this week) and at the Semester break. This is a moving target that changes by the hour, but as of right now it's just over 1% choosing online only. Pending the county's health order that could change a little bit so we won't have this nailed down until next week.”
  • North Summit School District- “We only have two students so far who are asking for remote learning for the entire school year. We will put them on our online program rather than remotely with one of our teachers. No additional teachers.”
  • Ogden School District- “Ogden School District will continue to offer Ogden Online as a full-time online option for elementary students. This option was provided last year as well. We will offer certain online classes for secondary students based on demand and availability.”
  • Provo City School District-
  • Piute County School District- “Piute offers an online option, but only a handful of students work entirely online. They can make the decision quarterly to switch back and forth. No additional teachers have been required for online students.”
  • Salt Lake City School District- “For K-6 students, if they wish to learn online, they would enroll in Salt Lake Virtual Elementary (SLVE). For secondary students, they can take some or all of their classes online via their home school.”
  • South Summit School District-
  • Uintah School District- “We are continuing to offer online learning through UON, our online school. It will be available at all times to those who choose to access online learning.”
  • Wasatch School District- “We offer the Wasatch Learning Academy, which is a full-time, online school choice for students in grades K-8 from Wasatch and throughout the state, and students in grades 9-12 at Wasatch High School use Edgenuity online. We have approximately 1,500 students in the WLA, with 250 from Wasatch County and the rest from around the state, and approximately 200 of 2,400 students at Wasatch High School online. Approximately 450 of the 7,400 students within District boundaries in Wasatch County School District are online.”
  • Wayne County School District- “All students will be taught in person this year unless parents choose an option other than Wayne SD schools for their students. We will provide options, such as streaming live instruction or packets, as needed, for students who may be isolating or quarantined.”
  • Weber School District- “Online learning will be an option for families this year. We have approximately 1,000 signed up so far. We are certainly prepared for those students and have had Weber K-12 Online available prior to this year.”
  • Tooele School District- We offer two online school options for our K-12 students. One through the TCSD Digital Education Center, and the other through My Tech High. Students enrolled in the Digital Education Center can enroll/unenroll per quarter. Students enrolled in my Tech High can enroll in August or January (they would need to wait until the next school year if they unenroll during the year). For more info go to: Digital Education Center (DEC) – Digital Education Center – Tooele County School District (tooeleschools.org) [tooeleschools.org]. The guidance from the state is for schools to try and keep students attending school full-time. Our administration has gone away from a blended model of instruction this year and ask families to make the choice that best fits their situation, whether in-person or online learning.