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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Students, parents, teachers respond to online learning amidst coronavirus pandemic

Mar 19, 2020 03:15PM ● By Julie Slama

Signs at schools, like this one at Sandy Elementary, indicate Canyons School District schools are closed until March 27, as others are throughout the state, for the coronavirus pandemic. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Prom. State track. International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement testing. Commencement.

These were important items on Morgan Miller’s checklist this spring.

Instead the Hillcrest High School senior left her lavender spaghetti strapped ballgown in her closet and cancelled the boutonnière for her date once the state superintendent Sydnee Dickson announced March 13 — the day before prom — that all schools statewide were mandated to a soft closure for two weeks as a precaution to the spread of the coronavirus.

“I had just wished my coaches a good weekend and drove home from track practice, when I heard the news,” she said. “I didn’t expect schools to close — not after the day before we heard the Governor (Gary Herbert) say schools would be monitored.”

While Miller’s track coach, Scott Stucki, said she is “favored to medal at state” in the sprint races, her attention is focused on schoolwork and graduation.

“I’m worried about IB and AP tests and graduation. I want to have the testing in May as it’s scheduled and graduate in a normal commencement. I’m worried about what is going to happen and if we’ll resume in two weeks. I’ve emailed my teachers and they’re giving us resources, but I have to be self-motivated,” she said. “It’s all kind of been crazy. My prom date and I were at least going to go out to dinner and now the restaurants are closed (to dining in).”

Even though Miller had been looking forward to many of the senior year traditions, now, she is mostly staying at home – not risking exposure as she has others at home with compromised immune systems, including her grandmother.

So, Miller is focusing intensely on her homework — submitting her biology IB assignment by deadline and dropping off her art for the IB exhibit (which she wasn’t sure how it would be displayed) — and admits, she’s worried about calculus.

“Math self-study may be a little harder,” she said. “My teacher usually has assignments on paper, not on Canvas (blended learning platform).”

Her teacher, Ken Herlin, said that he was working with his professional learning community to make assignments available online as well as in packets for those with limited or no access.

“It’s always better to have students in class with face-to-face discussions, but we’re doing what we can,” he said March 16. “Some will do just fine, some may struggle with assignments, but they can send emails and I expect to be in the building the next two weeks so I can answer questions.”

Likewise, Stucki, who teaches social studies, has online assignments for his students and may add PowerPoint presentations with extra explanations.

“They already have some materials and assignments, but I may have to start a YouTube channel,” he said. “It’s not ideal, but we’re reaching out to our students best we can.”

Parent Jeff Pace’s 11th-grade daughter picked up her assignments and materials for her Hillcrest classes on March 16. His other daughter is studying at Canyons Youth Academy and has taken classes online at Utah Connections Academy previously.

“School is ending across the nation, and back East, it’s three weeks, not two, so we’ll see if it’s going to get extended here,” he said. “The teachers are doing the best they can given the circumstances. Both my girls are really smart, so I think they’ll do just fine with classwork online.”

Bell View Elementary parent Marcie Cano has lined up activities to keep her four children learning and active during the hiatus.

“We have activities — making slime, painting, things to build, making molds of bugs and talking about them, word searches, reading, schoolwork — that they’ll be doing,” she said, adding that between tablets, phones and a computer, her kids will have access to online materials.

At Sandy Elementary, parent Katie Bradshaw said that she’s expecting her elementary students to pick up homework packets and her Jordan High and Mt. Jordan Middle kids to have homework online, adding that they can check out Chromebooks on March 19.

“Canyons is doing a good job, keeping us informed, letting us know what is going on,” she said.

For those who don’t have access, Canyons is making computing devices and Wi-Fi hotspots available for check-out to students who demonstrate need and don’t have internet access at home.

Comcast also is equipping individuals with in-home internet for free for 60 days to help with school closures and distance learning as well as work from home initiatives due to quarantines.

Sandy Elementary Community Schools Facilitator Isa Connelly was passing out materials and also said that families can contact all Canyons’ schools for more information on the resources.

“It’s a good opportunity for those who don’t have internet to apply and have access,” she said. “We have a lot of packets available as well. We’re wanting our students to keep moving forward, keep learning.”

At Ridgecrest Elementary, parent Jason Foerster said he has heard from his children’s teachers — including those of the two older kids who attend Brighton High.

“We will do schoolwork and educational games — and work in some playtime as well,” he said.

Copperview Elementary Community Schools Facilitator Jenna Landward said that in addition to homework packets, the teachers and staff will provide additional resources for parents.

“We want to be as proactive as we can in our time of soft closure,” she said. “We understand it’s a tough time.”

In addition to Canyons alerts, calls and emails, Copperview is communicating through ClassTag to keep parents updated.

Looking ahead, Miller isn’t sure what her Hillcrest graduation exercises will look like or if it will even be held.

“I want to have a normal graduation. I’ve worked so hard these four years, and pushed myself so hard, especially with IB. I’ve done everything I’ve literally can, so I’d like to wear a cap and gown. Literally, every class gets to walk (in commencement exercises) and have grad night. If we don’t get to, I’d be bummed,” she said.

The same can be said for Hillcrest senior Jacob Atkinson.

“I don’t know if all the schoolwork I’ve been doing all these years to graduate, will mean I’ll just receive my diploma in the mail,” he said. “It’s a little stressful not knowing where we are going from here.”

Atkinson had bought a suit for prom and had planned to attend with a group of friends.

“I don’t know if prom will be rescheduled or if the tickets can even be refunded if it’s not,” he said. “I had just gotten home from school and saw on Snapchat that my friends had posted school was closed. I looked on the Canyons website that it was legit. I like a little time off of school, but I don’t know what it or anything now will be looking like with all the uncertainty.”

Atkinson also was thinking if the soft closure will extend beyond the two weeks what may potentially cut his senior high school year short — classes, track meets, dances, activities.

“I’m taking a lot of concurrent enrollment classes and those and my other classes will be online so I’m not worried too much, but we’re going to miss out on some dances and activities. Given what’s going on, I get it,” he said. “I don’t know if my high school year (on campus) is over at this point or not, but it will be a good story to tell our grandkids.”

Note: At 4:47 p.m., March 17, Hillcrest Principal Greg Leavitt announced that prom will not be rescheduled and ticket refunds for students would be available in the school office.