The Utah Legislature recently conducted a study titled A Limited Review of Public Education’s COVID-19 Soft Closures (February 2021). A “Soft Closure” means when schools transition to online learning when they have 15 active cases of COVID-19 over a two-week period (15 active cases per school is the parameter used by the Utah State Health Department to determine when a school must go to a soft closure). The Legislative study found that one school missed 22 days of in-person learning between September 20 and December 18th, which equates to 44% of lost instruction in a face-to-face setting. Additionally, twelve of the 20 schools in the study experienced two or three soft closures during this time period. A recommendation from the Legislative study is to “Test to Stay” as a primary mitigation procedure. Test to Stay can be used as an alternative to dismissing in-school learning.
Test to Stay allows schools to continue to remain open by receiving parental consent for students to receive a rapid antigen test at no cost and providing results within 15 minutes. A swab of the lower nostril collects the sample for testing. Students who test negative would be allowed to attend face-to-face instruction in the buildings. Students who test positive would receive initial education online while they complete the quarantine timelines. Students who choose not to test would participate online for the two-week period to allow the schools to remain open and reset the numbers of positive COVID-19 numbers for the school.
As of the date of this article (2-12-21), we have 9 faculty/students who have tested positive at Kanab High School for COVID-19 in the last 14 days. Fortunately, in the Kane School District, we have not reached the threshold of 15 positive active cases, so we have been able to keep our schools open. If our numbers do exceed the 15 active cases, Test to Stay may be the only way we can avoid a soft closure and continue with in-person learning. It is important to note that teachers across the district have been providing in-person instruction and digitally streaming their classrooms to students placed on quarantine or fall into an at-risk category.
We appreciate all of the administrators, teachers, and staff for their daily efforts to ensure education continues in a safe and productive setting. As a district, we will work closely with the Southwest Utah Public Health Department to keep parents informed as we move forward and do everything we can to keep all of our schools open.
For more information: https://coronavirus.utah.gov/education/school-manual/