Coronavirus: Grand County Public Schools

[Photo by Maggie McGuire/Moab Sun News]

3/25 Update: This article has been revised to reflect changing policy. In a statement on March 24, the Grand County School District announced changing times for students picking up meals at bus stops. The statement reads: 

"Starting tomorrow, March 25: Please visit https://www.grandschools.org/ for the updated lunch delivery schedule. Please remind your student(s) to adhere to social distancing guidelines and stay 6 ft away from one another.

Students must follow all of the previously established pick-up procedures:

Bus drivers will only be able to stay at the bus stops for a few minutes because traffic will be stopped.

Students MUST follow regular guidelines, including standing at the bus stop, waiting until the bus stops, and stand 10 feet away for the bus.

Once stopped, bus drivers will bring lunches to the students. They will not be allowed on the bus.

All students picking up lunches at the schools or bus stop location MUST be present. Parents and siblings are NOT allowed to pick up lunches without the student present.

Students MUST pick up their lunches from their bus stop and cannot pick-up at other locations.

Parents/adults WILL NOT be able to purchase lunches for themselves.

We ask for your patience and understanding, as this is a new process. Any additional changes will be shared via parent link, our website and social media. For questions, please contact the District Office, at 435-259-5317 or our Transportation Director, Anna, at 435-259-5430.

3/23 Update: On March 23, Utah Governor Gary Herbert announced that public schools will remain dismissed through May 1. “I have been overwhelmed with Utahns’ outpouring of support for one another," said Herbert, "and nowhere has this been more evident than in the way our educators are supporting Utah's students and families.”

In the rapidly changing landscape of the current public health crisis, parents, teachers, and daycare providers are striving to provide for the needs of children in the community.

Grand County School District Schools, as well as the Moab Charter School, are closed to students until March 27 at the earliest.

The school system has made quick moves to institute temporary measures to allow learning and nourishment for kids to continue. 

Grand County School District

“Everybody has really banded together, and we’ve kept kids as our focus,” said Taryn Kay, principal of Helen M. Knight Elementary school.

Kay will serve as the next Grand County Superintendent, and she is acting as the school district representative on the local COVID-19 Taskforce. She said teachers, administrators and community partners are coping amazingly well with the changing situation.

Teachers and school officials reported to work early last week to devise a schedule to deliver lunches for students who rely on free and reduced lunch programs, as well as a schedule for students to pick up school Chrome books so they can access online lessons.

Teachers also rushed to refresh themselves on how to use online teaching tools and to create lessons that will allow students to continue “distance learning” from home while classes are suspended.

“We’ve been talking about coronavirus for the last two weeks here,” Kay said of educators in the Grand County school system, explaining that ideas for how to cope with a school shut-down were in circulation before the fact. “It wasn’t shocking.”

Beginning on March 18, bus drivers will be escorted by local police to ensure safe traffic flow as they bring packed lunches to bus stops where students can pick them up. Students who walk to school will be able to pick up lunches from a specified entrance at each school building.

The schedule and instructions for lunch and Chromebook pick-up are posted on the school district’s website and the Grand County School District Facebook page.

Grand County Library has also organized free meals for children under the age of 18, independent of the school system. Those meals are available for pick-up at the Center Street Ball Field across from the library from 3:30-4:30 p.m. each day.

Kay’s advice for parents and students is to check the district’s Facebook and webpage frequently for updates and to stay in close contact with teachers. Teachers will be available online to help students as they continue learning. Kay said that while for some more traditional teachers, moving to online lessons is a dramatic shift, for others “it’s a natural extension of what they’ve been doing.”

Kay is aware that working parents may struggle to find adequate supervision for kids home from school. She said that the state superintendent of school approached the governor’s office with suggestions that the school system may be able to assist with daycare during school closures. However, the governor’s office worried that such measures could potentially undo the social distancing they hoped to achieve by closing schools.

“They shut us down,” said Kay.

Parents and students cope

Wednesday was the first day parents and students tried out the ‘distance learning’ programs designed by the schools. Danielle Skidmore is a mother of three daughters, two of whom are at the Moab Charter School, and one of whom is at Grand County Middle School. Skidmore said she is pleased with the paper packets with assignments for different subjects and answer keys put together for her two younger daughters.

“I think the Charter School is going to go great, because it’s all paper,” said Skidmore. Her oldest daughter is expected to view videos and complete coursework online. Skidmore says this approach is complicated because her daughter doesn’t do well with online learning, and needs a hands-on approach to absorb information.

“She’s not an online learner—she’s too distracted with the computer. And it makes her very agitated, being on the computer for more than half an hour at a time,” said Skidmore. “I don’t see it working well at all.”

Skidmore said she may watch the videos herself, and teach her daughter herself using a more effective approach.

“It shouldn’t matter how she’s retaining it, as long as she’s retaining it,” she said.

Skidmore’s situation is complicated because she is currently under a two-week quarantine because she has a compromised immune system and upper respiratory issues. She is the only adult at home and is trying to facilitate distance learning while maintaining isolation and getting extra rest; friends and neighbors are dropping off supplies on her doorstep. Many of those good Samaritans are other parents from the Charter School.

“The Charter School has such a great tribe. We’re tight-knit; we watch out for each other,” she said.

Skidmore hopes the schools don’t extend the closure; she worries in particular about her oldest daughter keeping up with an online program.

“If this goes on the rest of the school year… I don’t even know what we would do,” said Skidmore, referring to the suspension of classes. “Probably pull her and just finish the school year homeschooling.”