Re-Open Salt Lake City Schools

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Dear Salt Lake City School District leaders, Mayor Mendenhall and Governor Herbert:

We, the parents of Salt Lake City School District children respectfully demand that you open up our schools for in-person learning and sports this fall, for those students who wish to do so.‎  

If schools remain closed, our children will, again, lose months of educational opportunities. While we know that the remote learning option is a reasonable last resort, our experience was that it removed nearly all of the practical benefits of learning and a quality education, and eliminates the enjoyment of the school experience. 

We also fear that the burdens of school closures will be borne unequally, with students who have unstable living situations or inadequate home support suffering disproportionately. How can we deprive our students, particularly those most at-risk, from an in-class education when we know from our spring experience that many did not engage in remote learning?   The news reported that 20% of the state’s students (132,000 students) never logged on even once during the COVID spring!   If they aren’t re-engaged this fall, we may lose them forever.  The failure to be in the classroom in a meaningful way hits our minority and underrepresented populations the hardest.  We have a moral imperative not to lose these kids but we also have a legal obligation to provide equitable opportunities and a quality educational experience for all our students.

This “school opening” needs to include sports and athletic competitions.  For many students, sports are the carrot that keep them engaged with school.  Some view it as their gateway to a post-high school education.  It gives them a community, physical exercise, and builds self-esteem. School Athletics can be a vital source of development and wellbeing.   Furthermore, since all other schools are opening their athletics, SLCSD should be on a parallel track or they risk losing many student athletes. 

We, as the parents of Salt Lake City School District believe opening schools can be done safely using CDC guidelines. We should be resuming normal, full-time operations as much as possible, with reasonable accommodations for those students, faculty and staff who are at risk or living with someone at risk and for students who choose remote learning.

We need to have close paralleling of opportunities with our neighboring districts.  Failure to do so will lead many parents to pull their kids out of SLCSD schools to either home school or to seek to transfer to a school providing better opportunities in other districts or the private sector.  This will have a ripple effect on the broader educational ecosystem, overloading schools in other districts that make their plans unworkable, and will take money out of SLCSD as those students leave and they (and their siblings) may not return.  This could ultimately lead to faculty reductions and a weaker district.

We ask you, for the sake of our children and future, please let’s work together, with a safety plan, to reopen the schools in SLCSD. We can do it right and safe.