When schools reopen this fall, it won’t look the same across the state.

The Utah Health Department has issued guidelines on being cautious during the pandemic and rules on how many cases there needs to be to shut down again. And the governor has required masks for K-12 students and staff. But most decisions have been left to each district.

Some will welcome students back like normal. A few will have kids alternate days in the classroom. Many have created a hybrid model that combines in-person and online learning. And one is staying entirely virtual until positive cases decline.

Here’s a breakdown of how seven districts — among them all five in Salt Lake County — plan to return, including their online options and plans for social distancing:

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Canyons School District Teacher of the Year Jessica Beus in her classroom at Midvale Elementary on Wednesday April 24, 2019.

When will classes start?

Most students will start Aug. 24, with kindergarten and preschool classes beginning a little later on Aug. 27. The first day was pushed back a week to give teachers more time to prepare, said district spokesman Jeff Haney.

What’s the plan for reopening in person?

If students choose to do in-person learning, they can come to school five days a week for all of their classes, like normal.

But the district is also trying to create a “maximum flexibility” situation, Haney added. So students and parents can choose how many days or for what classes they want to go into school. For instance, if a student wanted to take math in person, he could build his schedule to allow that and take every other class online. A student could also decide to take a week off and do all of the work online if a situation arises.

Are there online options?

Yes. All school work will be available for students to access online. If a family isn’t comfortable sending their kids back, they can do everything remotely.

How is the district helping students who may not have a computer or internet at home?

The district has Chromebooks available to check out, Haney said. And there are a limited number of hot spots for students in need.

What is the district doing to socially distance in classrooms?

Haney said the district is spacing the desks as far apart as possible in every classroom, per the state’s guidelines. Additionally, Canyons District intends to have schools use their extra spaces, such as auditoriums and gyms and outside pavilions, to get more distance when needed if there’s a large class.

What about lunch?

Students in most elementary schools will be assigned seats in the lunchroom because it is generally a place where larger groups congregate. That will help with contact tracing, Haney said, in case there is a positive case of the coronavirus. Schools will also build schedules to include more lunch times “so that students have a continual flow in and out of the cafeteria and there aren’t too many students in there at any one time.”

Is there anything else unique that the district is doing?

In addition to the online and in-person options, the district is also providing additional instructions and curriculum for parents who decide to home school. Parents lead the teaching, but they can use district materials to help. They also still have access to other school resources, such as counseling or lunches.

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Hundreds of Granite School district teachers gather at the Granite School District office on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, to protest the district’s plans for reopening, which will allow students back into the classroom, like normal, five days a week.
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When will classes start?

Classes begin Aug. 24, as originally scheduled.

What’s the plan for reopening in person?

The plans vary for elementary and secondary schools. For the district’s elementary students, parents have to choose to either have their kids learn entirely online or entirely in person, and they will be assigned a teacher accordingly. “But they can make adjustments at the end of the quarter,” said district spokesman Ben Horsley.

At the junior high and high schools, though, there’s more flexibility. Students can attend in person from Monday through Thursday, according to a schedule that they choose, with Fridays done online for everyone. That means a student may go to classes on only some days of the week or for only some subjects, depending on their preference. And if they are quarantined, they can switch to doing everything online.

Horsley said teachers will be asked to upload their coursework to accommodate this. Some teachers have protested here, though, saying the plan doesn’t keep them safe and they’ll still be seeing more than 100 kids each day.

Are there online options?

Students can, if they choose, do all virtual learning.

How is the district helping students who may not have a computer or internet at home?

Granite School District has Chromebooks for students to use at home. It also recently purchased 1,000 hot spots. “They’ll be able to check those out like a book,” Horsley said.

Additionally, all school property has wireless internet that can be accessed from the parking lots. And the district has outfitted some buses with hot spots that it can park in neighborhoods that need internet access.

What is the district doing to socially distance in classrooms?

As much as possible, the district is trying to keep desks apart — and has enlisted its math teachers to help with the measurements, Horsley said. Granite schools are also sorting kids into cohorts that will learn together so that they’re in contact with fewer people. “While there may be 500 people in a building,” Horsley added, “you’re only going to interact with the smaller group of maybe 60 kids.”

And schools will all have directional signs in the hallways so that kids move quickly and don’t congregate.

What about lunch?

With some schools educating 2,000 students, Horsley acknowledged that lunches present a challenge. There will be more lunch times to have fewer kids in the cafeteria at the same time. And the lunchrooms will have stickers on the floor to space students apart while they wait in line.

Is there anything else unique that the district is doing?

Granite School District will not have students using lockers at its middle and high schools. The hope there, Horsley said, is to avoid students stopping or gathering in the hallways. “Schools are going to be losing a lot of the social component, which is frankly what makes school enjoyable to an extent,” he added. “But we’ve got to create a safe environment.”

The district has also updated all of its air filtration systems to be hospital-grade. Fresh air will circulate three times per hour.

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Emily and Lucinda Webb join teachers and parents holding signs calling for a safe plan on reopening schools prior to a Jordan School District board meeting in Riverton on Tuesday, July 28, 2020.

When will classes start?

All high school students will begin on Aug. 24. And all elementary and middle schools will start Aug. 25. Those start dates were pushed back a week, said district spokeswoman Sandy Riesgraf, to give “teachers an extra week to prepare their classrooms.”

What’s the plan for reopening in person?

Students will attend in person four days a week, Monday through Thursday. Fridays will be digital days for everyone.

“The online day is for students to reach out to teachers if they need a little extra support,” Riesgraf said. “It’s not a day off for students.” Kids can work on lessons during that time. Teachers can complete plans or grading. And custodial staff can use the extra day to disinfect buildings.

Are there online options?

A student can choose to either do all of their classes in person or all virtually. About 18%, so far, have registered to do their schooling remotely, Riesgraf said.

Some teachers have rallied against the district’s plan, saying there will still be too many kids in each classroom. But Riesgraf said the district has since worked to address concerns and is now close to also accommodating every educator who wants to work only online this year.

How is the district helping students who may not have a computer or internet at home?

“This was not an issue for us when we were doing emergency learning last year,” Riesgraf added. The district, she said, has one computer per student.

What is the district doing to socially distance in classrooms?

Once the registration period is done and the district knows how many students will be working online, staff will go into classrooms and space the desks out. The hope is that enough kids sign up to learn remotely that there won’t be as many people in each room. The district is also taking out any unnecessary furniture or equipment to create extra space.

Additionally, some schools are using their portable classrooms to create mask-free zones, Riesgraf said. Inside those, there will be circles marked on the floors 6 feet apart for kids who need some time without their face covered. Additionally, the schools in the district are also planning to broadcast all assemblies so there are not large gatherings.

What about lunch?

All lunches will be served in self-contained styrofoam grab-and-go containers. There will be no salad bars or other buffets, and students will scan their ID cards for contact-free payment. Riesgraf said there will be additional staff around the lunchrooms encouraging students to socially distance. And the schools will encourage kids to eat outside on warm days.

Is there anything else unique that the district is doing?

Over the summer, the district identified teachers who excelled at instructing online when schools were first closed in March. Those educators created a year’s worth of digital content for all grades that anyone in the district can use. That will come in handy, Riesgraf said, if a student is out sick or on quarantine or for teachers who will be educating exclusively from home.

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Nearly empty school buses get ready to leave Murray High School after the final bell on Thursday, March 12, 2020, after it was announced earlier in the day that the Murray School District in Salt Lake County will close "until further notice."
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When will classes start?

Murray schools will be among the first to open in the state, with classes starting Aug. 17. District spokesman Doug Perry said it’s “a little surreal” since the district was also the first to close this spring.

For the first two weeks, school will be done in half days. The district chose to do that, rather than delaying the start date, to “just ease everybody into it,” Perry added. Students will be there for the first half of the day. Teachers will then be able to use the second half for trainings.

What’s the plan for reopening in person?

Students can choose to go to school every weekday, do their classes in a mix of in person and online or go entirely online. “It’s whatever they want to make of it,” Perry said, noting they’ll need to figure out what they can balance and how to keep track of it.

Teachers will record all of their lessons, so if a student doesn’t come to the classroom, they won’t miss anything. Those will be posted on a class’s website each day by 4:30 p.m.

Are there online options?

Yes. A family can chose to have their kids do everything online.

How is the district helping students who may not have a computer or internet at home?

Murray School District is unique in that it was one of the first in the nation to outfit every student with a Chromebook — even before the pandemic. It’s already incorporated a lot of online learning and modules into its schedules.

Additionally, the district is also the first anywhere to create its own internet network. “In essence, we are an internet service provider,” Perry said. All of the Chromebooks that students use are programmed to connect to the district’s internet within Murray boundaries; it only works on those devices. That started this spring and should be fully functioning by October. Perry said that will be helpful if a student is in quarantine or at high-risk of serious complications from the virus and needs to do their schoolwork online.

The next step, Perry added, will be starting to incorporate live learning where students can log in and see in realtime what’s happening in the classroom. That’s in the works.

What is the district doing to socially distance in classrooms?

So far, about 20% of the district’s students will be doing all remote learning this fall. Perry said having fewer kids in person will make it easier to space out desks. There will also be directional signs in the hallways to move students along in between classes.

What about lunch?

There will be assigned seating in the lunchroom and students will be spaced apart. They will also be encouraged to eat outside when possible.

Is there anything else unique that the district is doing?

In addition to COVID trainings, about 200 teachers were also trained on equity and bias issues in response to the protests happening nationwide. Perry said the pandemic is not the only crisis that needs to be addressed. “We’re really trying to be sensitive to other cultures, races and beliefs and be a listening ear,” he said.

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Larry Madden, Interim Superintendent of the Salt Lake City School District, details the district's restart plans for the 2020-21 school year at a news conference in Salt Lake City on Thursday, July 30, 2020. At rear is Melissa Ford, president of the Salt Lake City School District Board of Education, and Nate Salazar, board vice president.

When will classes start?

The district decided to delay the first day by two weeks, and classes will now begin Sept. 8.

What’s the plan for reopening in person?

Salt Lake City schools will start entirely online for the beginning of the school year. It’s the only district in the state to do so.

Some more vulnerable students, including those learning English or those with disabilities, will be allowed to meet with teachers in person for one-on-one instruction or in small groups, said district spokeswoman Yándary Chatwin. And sports will continue as normal.

Are there online options?

Classes are only being held online until cases of the virus decline, schools officials have said. The district remains inside of an “orange,” or moderate risk zone for the virus. “Salt Lake City has been impacted differently,” Chatwin said, noting hot spots in Glendale and Rose Park. Some parents have protested against holding classes remotely, but many on the west side have applauded the decision.

How is the district helping students who may not have a computer or internet at home?

This has been a major equity issue for the diverse district. So from Aug. 25 to Sept. 8, district officials will be distributing computers and making sure every student has access to wireless internet. Additionally, it is working with Comcast to increase connectivity in its neighborhoods. School buildings have also extended the range or their internet connections so families can sit in the parking lot and log on. The football stadiums at the three main high school have internet, too. And the district has 10 buses outfitted with routers that it can park where students need them.

What is the district doing to socially distance in classrooms?

For the few vulnerable students allowed back in small groups, desks will be spaced apart.

What about lunch?

Breakfasts and lunches will continue to be provided in a grab-and-go style.

Is there anything else unique that the district is doing?

Chatwin said the hope is to return to in-person instruction as soon as possible and as soon as it’s safe. In order to return, the district is looking at two benchmarks. The average positivity rate in the county will need to be at 5% of those tested. Currently, it’s around 9%. The district is also watching the cases per 100,000 people. To reopen, it will need to be below 10. Right now, it’s at 17.9.

While away, the school is continuing to offer resources, such as virtual appointments with school counselors. The district will also hold a Q&A meeting for parents. The information session begins Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. It will be streamed online at youtube.com/user/slcschools.

(Photo courtesy of Alpine School District) Hillcrest Elementary School in Orem.

When will classes start?

For the biggest school district in the state, classes will begin Aug. 18.

What’s the plan for reopening in person?

Students can return to the classroom Monday through Friday. But every day will be what the district calls “early out.” That means students will be done at school an hour earlier than normal. “That will give teachers extra time to plan and for us to do a more deep cleaning of the schools every day,” said district spokesman David Stephenson.

He added that 86%, so far, have opted to come back in person.

Are there online options?

There are two options for children to complete their schooling entirely online. They can either choose to do remote learning with their individual school. Or parents can pick to home school their kids with district-provided materials.

How is the district helping students who may not have a computer or internet at home?

Stephenson said any student who needs a computer will be able to check out a device.

What is the district doing to socially distance in classrooms?

“It’s not going to be possible to have everyone 6 feet apart,” Stephenson acknowledged, with the historically large classes sizes in Utah. But the district will do its best to space kids away from each other. They have also added hand sanitizing stations and will be enforcing the statewide mask mandate for schools to help avoid spreading the virus.

What about lunch?

Because students will be let out early each day, lunch will not be eaten at school for middle and high schoolers. Kids will be able to grab a ready-to-go meal from the cafeteria on their way out and can eat that at home.

Is there anything else unique that the district is doing?

It appears the district is the only one in the state to offer the “early out” setup.

(Rick Bowmer | AP file photo) Brooke Anderson and her daughters Presley, 5, and Emma, 7, join other parents protesting the Davis School District's hybrid school reopening plan outside the Davis School District office prior to a school board meeting Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Farmington, Utah. The parents would prefer their children to attend school five days a week.

When will classes start?

Classes will begin, as scheduled, on Aug. 25.

What’s the plan for reopening in person?

Davis School District is doing an alternating hybrid model. That means one group of students will come to class on Mondays and Wednesdays. The other group will be in on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On the days they’re not in person, kids will complete work online. And all students will use Fridays to catch up at home, said district spokeswoman Shauna Lund.

Some parents protested against that idea Thursday, saying in a board meeting that it would be hard for them to work around that kind of schedule and find child care. Others said they want their kids there five days a week to learn. But the district stuck with the plan, calling it the best option for now.

Are there online options?

Students who want to learn only online can enroll in what’s called Davis Connect. That’s a fully virtual program that the district runs with teachers specifically focused on digital education. Parents will need to commit to either online or in person for a least a quarter, Lund said.

How is the district helping students who may not have a computer or internet at home?

Davis Connect provides laptops to use for free for elementary students and for $15 for middle and high schoolers.

What is the district doing to socially distance in classrooms?

With the alternating day schedules, Lund said, “it takes up to 50% of the students out of the school at any given time.” That will help in spacing people apart.

What about lunch?

Lunches will be separated by grade level to limit the number of students in the cafeteria.

Is there anything else unique that the district is doing?

The district’s unique hybrid schedule will be evaluated as the year goes on. If cases of the virus decrease, Lund said, schools may choose to return fully in person like normal.

Additionally, the district has a strict sanitation plan. Students will be required to wash their hands every time they enter or exit their classroom. And at the middle and high schools, where students change rooms for each period, the district plans on spraying down all desks with a misting sanitizer spray between each transition. It will do the same on its playgrounds.