Gov. Herbert orders all Utah schools K-12 to close for 2 weeks starting Monday, March 16

Photo: March 13, 2020 news conference screen grab; CDC graphic

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, March 13, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has ordered all Utah schools for grades K-12 to close for 2 weeks starting Monday, March 16.

The governor made the announcement during a Friday afternoon press conference at the Utah State Capitol.

Herbert said the decision was made in consultation with health and education experts who are strongly advocating social distancing, what Herbert referred to as “the process of effectively separating ourselves from those who are infected.”

Teachers now have up to two days to make plans to continue instruction, Herbert said. Remote instruction will resume on Wednesday, March 18, at the latest, and may take many forms. Parents and students can expect more information from their school districts and charters.

Gov. Herbert stressed that the school dismissal is a preventative measure, and will be reassessed at the end of the two-week period to determine whether or not the policy should continue.

“We feel strongly that the best way to keep our communities healthy is to implement these measures early, rather than late,” the governor said. “Acting now to limit community spread will help reduce the number of cases of coronavirus that we see, so that our healthcare community will have the capacity to care for patients who need help.”

School districts had been told Thursday they would remain open through the end of next week, but should also prepare for closings.

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Herbert also stressed the schools would still be functioning on a variety of levels, but students would complete course work online in what was referred to as “distance learning.”

Superintendent Syd Dickson joined Herbert, along with Lt. Gov. Spencer J. Cox, in explaining  schools will still provide services to students who need them through the dismissal period.

“To be clear, we are in prevention mode, not reaction mode,” Dickson said. “We are not reacting to a confirmed COVID-19 case in any of our schools, rather we are entering a critical new phase in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Lt. Governor Spencer J. Cox framed the school “dismissals” as a community effort that will help minimize the impact of COVID-19 on Utah.

“There’s nowhere I would rather be right now than Utah,” Cox said. “Our state is prepared for this. We will take care of each other. We will mobilize our communities. There is good for each of us to do. Utahns are coming together to care for their vulnerable neighbors. We will get through this, together.”

A statement released by the governor’s office said “the plan for dismissal emphasizes the importance of localized decision making in conjunction with local health departments.”

More information about which services will be provided on campus for your student during the dismissal will be provided by local districts and charters.

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