Utah Stories

Holding Our Breath: Can we stay safe with kids in school?

School districts are divided as to how we best manage students’ return to schools. How we handle our children returning to school might be one of the most important debates we are currently we are concerned with.


Utah has made national headlines when we reopened our schools two weeks ago. Just prior to opening 79 teachers retired or quit. The New York Post and Fox News picked up this story. The State had to go so far as punishing teachers with a $1,000 fine if they quit without providing proper notice.

With Salt Lake City School District keeping students at home and virtual and all other districts sending kids back to school, it seems that school districts, teachers, and parents are politically divided as to how we best manage students’ return to schools–liberals more cautious, conservatives more cavalier.

 To shift the focus away from politics we begin with a few facts for consideration:

  1. Utah has one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in the country. We have had just 13 deaths per 1,000 residents. By contrast, New York has had 282 deaths per thousand. 
  2. If a young person under the age of 17 contracts COVID, they have less than a 1 in 1,000 chance of dying from COVID. Twice as many young people (from the ages of 5-14) died from the flu this year than from COVID 19 (according to the CDC).
  3. According to the New York Times, more than half of “virtual learners” in New York stopped attending classes
  4. If a young person drops out of high school, they are ten times more likely to end up incarcerated in prison, also according to the New York Times.
  5. Parents who are unable to work have a hard time making enough money to support their families. (No source for this one other than my common sense.)

These facts might at first appear a little disjointed, so I’ll connect the dots. Utah is unusually fit and healthy. We also have—compared to the rest of the nation—a very good healthcare system. This might be why we have such a low COVID-19 death rate. Young people are far more likely to die in other ways than from Coronavirus. According to the CDC, automobile accidents are the leading cause of death among young people, followed by domestic accidents. Kids are far more likely to die driving to school than they are likely to die from COVID. 

And kids (especially our kids), hate “virtual learning.” There is nothing fun about sitting in front of a laptop with a poor wifi connection attempting to listen to a teacher from afar. This method of learning doesn’t spark or inspire learner interest. Nor does it offer what kids really need: community, friends and camaraderie. It would be better if kids took their classes from the Khan Academy and joined up for supervised all-day recess at playgrounds.

Finally, there is no way for parents to stay at home with more than one child and effectively work from home. We have personally attempted this, and it is physically impossible short of excessive alcohol consumption and/or enhanced unlawful restraining/detainment techniques.

In our estimation, the state of Utah (with the exception of Salt Lake City School District) is doing the right thing by opening schools, although it is certainly scary for teachers. Teachers are now our “front line workers.” The ones that have stayed on deserve awards and bonuses. 

I would suggest that the Governor spend money from the “rainy day fund” to double teachers’ salaries and double the spending on protective measures for teachers. If Governor Herbert were to do this, he could certainly fill the current shortage of teachers and relieve the teachers who are taking on class loads far beyond what they can handle.

Feel free to chime in or tell me where I am wrong: Richard@UtahStories.com



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