Glenda Woodring was logged on and ready to welcome her fourth graders back to school Tuesday for what was supposed to be the first day of online classes in Salt Lake City School District.
She bubbled with excitement as a few faces started popping up on the Zoom call just after 8:15 a.m. “They’re coming,” she said. “Yay!”
Woodring tried to help one girl with her computer. “Hi, Priscilla,” the teacher said. “Turn on the camera so I can see you.” And one boy got a little nervous when she asked how his summer went. “Good,” he responded, shyly turning his face away from the camera.
But after 15 minutes, only six of Woodring’s 19 students had shown up. She could guess why. And her Apple watch buzzed with a new notification that confirmed it.
“Classes canceled,” it said.
After a two-week delay to prepare for online instruction this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic, the district was set to start Tuesday. Then came the massive windstorm early in the morning before classes were going to begin, which was accompanied by a widespread power outage. And so came the next postponement to an already unusual school year.
With the storm expected to continue, the start of classes now has officially been put off until Thursday, district spokeswoman Yándary Chatwin said. Hopefully by then, the forces of nature will stop getting in the way.
“This certainly is not what we had expected on our first day of school," interim Superintendent Larry Madden wrote in an email sent to parents. “We’re disappointed we couldn’t see our students today but hope to start remote learning very soon.”
Madden said that power in the city may not return for up to two days. If it’s not back for all families by Thursday, he added, teachers will “be flexible.”
Other schools around Weber and Salt Lake counties also closed on Tuesday. Some of those will remain shut down for another day, including all in Davis, Ogden and Weber school districts. Weber State University, as well, canceled classes for Wednesday, as did Farmington Ascent Academy. And select schools in Canyons and Granite school districts also closed due to ongoing power outages.
A few, such as the University of Utah, announced plans to reopen Wednesday.
In the meantime, several locations will be providing grab-and-go meals for students in Salt Lake City. Those are listed at slcschools.org.
Most of Woodring’s students at Jackson Elementary, on the west side of Salt Lake City, live in the areas most impacted by the storm. And the teacher got a few frantic messages Tuesday morning from parents. “I can’t get in,” one said. “My power is out,” noted another before the district informed everyone that the first day wouldn’t be happening after all.
And as quickly as she’d logged on, Woodring logged off.
The teacher was already worried it would be a strange year in Room 35. She’d taken her class pets — a couple of goldfish and guppies — home this spring when schools first shut down because of COVID-19. She’s been unsure, too, how her kids would do this fall with starting online. Salt Lake City School District is the only one in Utah to be entirely remote.
“It’s a bizarre school year,” she said Tuesday. “It’s definitely not the same as in person. You have to depend on a 9-year-old or 10-year-old to log on. And it all depends on if they have power or internet.”
Woodring had come to her classroom to do her online broadcast from her desk there. And she sat in front of 20 empty chairs when it didn’t happen.