Utah parents, teachers debate school reopening plans

Taylor Lopez, a junior at Clearfield High School, center, protests with others in front of the Davis School District Office, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Farmington, Utah. A group of parents protested the district's hybrid reopening plan because they would prefer their children to attend school five days a week. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah (AP) — Hundreds of teachers and parents have gathered in northern Utah to argue whether school district reopening plans intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 are too restrictive or not.

There were two demonstrations Tuesday in Farmington and South Salt Lake. They held opposing views of each other in response to their respective school district’s reopening plans, the Deseret News reported.

Staci Patrick, left, protests with others in front of the Davis School District Office, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Farmington, Utah. A group of parents protested the district’s hybrid reopening plan because they would prefer their children to attend school five days a week.Rick Bowmer/AP

About 250 people gathered outside of the Davis School District building in Farmington to demand a return to normalcy. The district announced plans to implement a hybrid learning model where students will alternate between in-person and online classes.

“They already are disadvantaged from learning like their peers and they need every opportunity that they can to meet with a teacher to have that individualized attention,” said Mary Ehrhard, mother of a special needs child. “And they certainly won’t get it with an online, three days a week, two days in school.”

Another protest was held outside of the Granite School District building in South Salt Lake, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Farmington. The district announced that parents have the option to choose distance learning, while students that attend in-person classes will be isolated by classroom groups.

Most protesters in South Salt Lake called for a hybrid plan — the exact thing the protesters in Farmington denounced as “absurd,” “tough on working families” and “political.”

The hybrid model is what we think is a middle ground here,” said Shelly Benevento, a second grade teacher at Spring Lane Elementary School. With fewer students, the school “might actually have a chance of doing some teaching,” she said, but would be preoccupied with enforcing distancing measures if it reopened at full capacity.

Jenny Gelwix, right, a 3rd grade teacher, joins other Granite School district teachers gathered at the Granite School District Office, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Salt Lake City, to protest the district’s plans for reopening. Teachers showed up in numbers to make sure the district’s school board knew their concerns. Rick Bowmer/AP

Both districts conducted surveys, and received similar results with a majority of respondents in both school districts in support of an alternating hybrid schedule.

It remains unclear what the school year will look like in either district.

“I’m trying to plan to teach both in-person and online, because I don’t even know if I’m going to be a distance teacher or an in-person teacher,” Rosecrest Elementary first grade teacher Chiara Yates said.

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