The South Summit School District is adding ‘quasi-quarantine’ weeks after Thanksgiving and winter breaks
The South Summit School District on Monday announced it was taking a proactive step to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in its schools, implementing “quasi-quarantine” weeks after both the Thanksgiving and winter breaks to counteract an anticipated uptick in COVID exposure over the holidays.
Thanksgiving break starts Wednesday, but now South Summit students won’t be returning to school until Monday, Dec. 7. Online classes, however, will resume Monday, Nov. 30.
The last day of school before Christmas break is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 18, with students originally scheduled to return Monday, Jan. 4. Now, that Monday kicks off a week of remote learning and the first day back in schools will be Monday, Jan. 11.
“By planning this now, it allows teachers to prepare effectively for those remote learning days and make them valuable experiences, rather than reacting later with shorter notice,” a district spokesperson wrote in a prepared statement. “… I think it’s a unique approach and we’re hopeful for a positive outcome.”
The district said it made the move knowing that COVID-19 cases will likely continue to increase after students and staff contact friends and family members from outside of their households during holiday gatherings.
The district wrote in the statement that the quarantine weeks will give time for people who have contracted the disease to manifest symptoms.
“The exposure time frame for COVID-19 is longer than one week, but a high percentage of people manifest symptoms within seven days of exposure. Consequently, one week of remote learning after the holiday breaks allows for that incubation period,” the district wrote in the statement. “People with positive cases should by then be aware of their symptoms and should not come back to school, thus decreasing the risk of exposure to COVID to others in school.”
The Summit County Health Department lauded the district’s move.
“We support the decision of the South Summit School District,” Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough wrote in an email to The Park Record. “Their efforts remain focused on reducing the burden on our hospital systems in the coming weeks and months.”
Bullough has said that a surge of cases hit South Summit in late October, ending an initial period when East Side communities had far fewer cases than in the Park City area.
Now, the East Side has proportionally more cases than the more densely populated West Side when adjusted for population, according to Summit County data.
The East Side surge has moved into the North Summit School District, which last week implemented a two-week period of remote learning for its high school, set to end after Thanksgiving break on Nov. 30. The Wasatch School District pursued a similar plan for its high school earlier this month, with students there set to return to in-person learning Dec. 1.
The South Summit online learning weeks apply to all schools and all grade levels, the spokesperson said, not just older students.
State guidelines recommend, among other measures, that schools move to remote learning if there are 15 active cases in any one school. Neither North Summit nor South Summit schools had reached that threshold when they opted for remote learning, with the South Summit spokesperson referring to these weeks of remote learning as a “proactive” step.
The Park City School District is now the only district in Summit County that has not imposed a remote learning stint to prevent the spread of COVID-19. District officials have said that, so far, the number of cases in the district does warrant such a move.
Data published Monday indicates there were 20 active cases in the Park City School District, including eight at the high school.
Park City officials have repeatedly said their goal is to preserve in-person learning for as long as possible. Local, state and national health officials have indicated that schools have proven to be relatively safe.
While COVID is spreading quickly among young adults, officials have said that the spread appears to be occurring in social gatherings rather than when students are in class.
Some fear that might change after the holiday season as people congregate indoors without masks with friends and family. Early this month, the Utah Education Association requested that districts statewide move secondary schools to remote learning between Thanksgiving and winter breaks to prevent a surge of COVID-19. The Park City Education Association reported last week that 29 of the 37 secondary teachers it surveyed supported a move to remote learning.
Many stakeholders, among them some parents, students and teachers, have decried the online learning that schools were forced to adopt when the pandemic hit at the end of last school year as burdensome and less effective than in-person class.
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Park City High School students have had to adjust to remote learning once more after a spike in coronavirus cases forced the school to temporarily close its doors.