Utah school district firm to online learning despite critic

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — After Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox criticized the Salt Lake City School District for not mandating in-person learning, the district reaffirmed its commitment to online learning during the pandemic until it is safe.

“Many of our students are being left behind – especially those in low-income areas, students with disabilities,” Cox said during a gubernatorial debate on Tuesday. “The Salt Lake City School District is the only school district in the state that has not gone back to in-person learning. And that’s a huge mistake. It is damaging our kids and that needs to change right now.”

School district spokesperson Yandary Chatwin said that despite Cox’s comments, the district will continue with remote, online learning in order to keep faculty, staff, students and their families safe from the coronavirus.

There have been 73,042 confirmed cases and 459 deaths from the coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to the state Department of Health.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

School District Interim Superintendent Larry Madde said that state leaders have intentionally opted not to release a statewide response, instead deferring to local officials to choose how they will react to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Touting a belief in local control, they have instead left crucial parts of Utah‘s public response up to locally elected government leaders, including locally elected school boards,” he said.

Chatwin says the district is willing to sit down with Cox to discuss his comment.

“We’ve met with some of our other legislators and elected officials,” Chatwin said. “So, if he were interested in having a meeting with our school board leadership or our district leadership, or superintendent, absolutely we would welcome that.”

The Salt Lake City School District has said it will not consider bringing students back to the classroom until Nov. 9. Chatwin said a decision for further dates will be made Tuesday, KTVX-TV reported.

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