Record editorial: School closures are yet another challenge brought on by pandemic
Given how rapidly the coronavirus has spread in the community in recent months, it was somewhat surprising that the Park City School District made it halfway through the academic year without having to close a school due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
It was nonetheless jarring for teachers, students and parents on Tuesday to learn that Park City High School and Treasure Mountain Junior High would be transitioning to remote learning after case counts in the schools rose after the holiday break.
It is one more in a long list of challenges the pandemic has brought on over the last 10 months. And it is one district officials had hoped to avoid, due to both the reality that most students learn better when they are with their peers in a classroom and the challenging logistics of such a massive change.
Yet for all the disruption such a move causes, reacting with caution and temporarily closing the schools is unquestionably the right call, especially given the concerns that many high school teachers have had about the safety of classrooms that don’t always have enough room for adequate social distancing.
Fortuitously, the shutdown comes as the district partners with TestUtah on an extensive COVID-19 testing effort that will allow students and teachers at PCHS and Treasure Mountain to receive a rapid coronavirus test every two weeks during periods when transmission is high.
The program, dubbed “Test to Stay,” is one of the most significant steps yet toward preventing the spread of the coronavirus in schools. Though the rapid tests are not 100% accurate, testing everyone will help officials identify asymptomatic positive cases and will hopefully make this the last time the pandemic forces a Park City school to close its doors.
The testing push will also give teachers and students some semblance of security the next time they walk into the classroom. In an academic year marked by change, uncertainty and, now, an outbreak significant enough to warrant shutting two schools, that is certainly a welcome development.
TestUtah is also providing rapid COVID-19 tests to all members of the Park City community on three occasions, beginning Tuesday from noon to 7 p.m. The other days are Monday, Jan. 25, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Tuesday, Jan. 26, from noon to 7 p.m. The testing will be available in the Eccles Center lobby.
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Our view: With school starting in four weeks and full immunity from a vaccine taking five weeks, it’s past time for parents to have their 12-and-older children vaccinated to protect them — and others — from the disease.