Record editorial: School year has been a success amid the backdrop of a pandemic
Few would disagree that the school year in Park City has been bumpy.
Some teachers have been frustrated with what they say are inadequate safety measures in schools. Many students have been forced to quarantine after coming into contact with someone who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, while others have had mixed experiences with remote learning. Administrators, meanwhile, have faced an almost impossible challenge trying to ensure students receive a high-quality education while keeping everyone safe.
Yet against the backdrop of a deadly pandemic, the school year has been a success, even if it’s required patience and the ability to adapt along the way. There is little evidence that widespread transmission has occurred in schools, as some feared would happen, and the return of in-person learning has been a bright spot for many students and families.
Let’s not lose sight of that — and the incredible work of teachers, district officials, students and parents to make it all possible — amid a growing dispute over whether to close schools during the holiday season.
The debate recently has become more intense as the coronavirus runs unfettered in Utah and Summit County. The Utah Education Association, for one, has called for secondary schools throughout the state to close between Thanksgiving and the Christmas break out of fear that students will contract COVID-19 while spending time with their families then spread it at school.
Others, meanwhile, are urging the schools to remain open. That includes more than 60 Park City High School students who signed a petition that was submitted to the Park City Board of Education on Tuesday.
Both views have merit. Teachers are on the front lines of this pandemic, and with case numbers at record levels and hospitals at capacity, there’s every reason to be concerned about the wisdom of keeping schools open. And teachers, especially older ones or those with preexisting conditions, may be more at risk of severe consequences from contracting COVID-19 than their students. But it’s also true that schools, to this point, have not been sites of major transmission for the disease, and that an in-person learning environment is better for many students than remote learning.
What’s not in dispute, however, is that the situation can change quickly. If case numbers increase to crisis levels, district officials may have no choice but to shutter schools despite their preference to keep them open. That’s what happened at North Summit High School on Tuesday, and the district prudently transitioned the school to remote learning until Nov. 30.
Their counterparts in Park City — as well as South Summit — should be prepared to react just as swiftly should it become necessary.
The fact that Park City has made it this far into the school year with in-person learning is a resounding success story. But the coronavirus, more than the school district, may have the ultimate say about what the next chapter looks like.
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