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Superintendent's Message 2020-11-06

Dear Salt Lake City School District community,

I wanted to provide a recap for you of some information I shared in our Board of Education meeting earlier this week. (If you are interested in watching the recording of the meeting, you can find that View the board meeting discussion on YouTube.) Please note that the Board did not take a vote to change our mode of instruction. For the time being, we remain in remote learning.

After consulting with the Salt Lake County Health Department, the Utah Department of Health, and with epidemiologists at the University of Utah, I shared with our Board members a model of how we might safely bring students back into the classroom. We know COVID-19 numbers have been rising steadily in our county and in our state, so this is not an immediate recommendation, but rather, a plan for when we are ready to bring students back. The Board indicated from the beginning that we want to bring students back into the classroom as soon as possible, but we need to make sure we do it safely.

I introduced an idea for beginning with our youngest learners (Pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and 1st grade students). Data from our county health department – and the experiences of neighboring school districts – suggest that these young students have a relatively low rate of COVID-19 transmission that can be mitigated through protocols such as mask-wearing, social distancing when possible, frequent hand-washing, and regular sanitizing. Our own assessment data indicates that these students are most at risk for falling behind academically without in-person instruction. These early years are crucial for students, as they learn the fundamentals of reading, letters, and sounds. While our teachers have done an extraordinary job so far in remote learning, we would like to look at a model that would bring Pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and 1st grade students back to the classroom first.

After we see how our youngest learners do in person, I suggested looking at bringing back students in 2nd and 3rd grade, and then moving on to our upper elementary grades (4th and 5th grades and 6th grade at some of our elementary schools) after that. Please note this would not include 6th graders in middle school. Because the rates of transmission remain high among teenagers and older students, right now, this model does not include a path for bringing back middle and high school students.

We’ve heard from families across the district about their experiences with remote learning. What is clear is that remote learning is working well for some families and not at all for others. While we wait for a full return to in-person learning, the Board provided guidance on Tuesday to expand opportunities for small group, in person instruction at all our schools. Currently, small group instruction is happening for targeted student populations, and we hope to expand these opportunities at each school. You will hear more from your school principal in the coming weeks about how this might impact students at your school.

I will keep you informed about any new developments and invite you to tune in to the next Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, November 17.

Sincerely,

Larry Madden
Interim Superintendent
Salt Lake City School District

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