Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information and Resources

On Monday, March 25, the state announced that Utah’s K-12 public schools will extend their dismissal (or soft closure) through Friday, May 1 in a continuing effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. The state will continue to evaluate the situation to make a determination about the remaining school year.

State Issues Extension on K-12 and Technical College Dismissal
Governor Gary R. Herbert

During this time, State Superintendent Sydnee Dickson encourages school communities to focus efforts first on the following five priorities, while also considering the health and safety of your staff and communities:

  1. Continue providing learning opportunities for all students.
  2. Provide graduating seniors the content they need to transition.
  3. Maximize opportunities for students to continue to receive meal services.
  4. Make every effort to keep staff gainfully employed.
  5. Support student and staff mental health and social emotional needs.

We encourage teachers, students and parents to visit the Utah Education Network’s Learn@Home website for timely information and resources to help learning continue beyond face-to-face environments. 

As schools, students, families, and communities plan for and experience dismissals and remote instruction, the Utah State Board of Education is committed to providing ongoing guidance and resources as we sort through this unprecedented situation together. Please see the document below for responses to most frequently asked questions we’ve received about school dismissals and remote instruction and navigate through the tabs below for further guidance and resources.

Extended School “Soft Closure” Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Other sources of information educators and families should monitor are the:

USBE Rule Waivers – Continuity of Education Plans

The Utah State Board of Education (Board) has waived several administrative rules in light of national and state declarations of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 19, the Board waived certain rules (Motion to Waive Board Rule Provisions due to COVID-19), including instructional day and hour requirements, transportation requirements, and extending deadlines for various programs that fall between April and May. These waivers are effective immediately and in place through June 30, 2020.

Local Education Agencies (LEAs) are required to submit a continuity of education plan to the Utah State Board of Education as a condition of the waiver allowing an exemption from R277-419: Pupil Accounting which requires schools to provide 180 days and 990 hours of instruction. Please use the following template, School Closure Continuity of Education Plan, which includes the following items:

  • The name of the school(s) within LEA;
  • Whether the school is utilizing e-learning and steps being taken to ensure equity;
  • If the school is not utilizing e-learning, whether the school is providing other continuity of education efforts;
  • Special Education Services being provided;
  • Whether the school is providing students with meals;
  • Athletics, activities, and events planning;
  • Staffing plan (work with your corresponding associations and leadership);
  • Additional information unique to your LEA;
  • LEA contact information.

Please submit plans to cvplan@schools.utah.gov.

On April 2, the Board voted to waive several additional rules (Motion to Waive Board Rule Provisions due to COVID-19) dealing with teachers, professional staff, and teacher candidates to allow districts, charter schools, teachers, and teacher candidates the flexibility they need to continue serving students or maintain their licenses amid the restrictions imposed by pandemic response.

Digital Teaching and Learning

Many Local Education Agencies (LEAs) have requested additional guidance regarding the feasibility and legality of providing online learning given the extended school dismissal.

The Utah State Board of Education (USBE) urges LEAs to consider the following recommendations in providing electronic or distance learning services during the dismissal:

  • Ensure all students will have equal access to the learning and required materials, including technology.
  • Ensure the online learning system can effectively support the district’s different learning and teaching needs, including the ability to provide differentiated instruction as well as one-on-one support for students who need it. Regardless of where the learning is happening, supports identified on a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) must be provided if the LEA is operating.
  • Provide training to staff, students, and parents and guardians on how the system works and what expectations the LEA has.
  • Maintain the ability to track the attendance of both students and staff.
  • Ensure the systems in use are secure and will not allow for the release of protected student or staff information.

Taking a traditional school environment online is not a simple task– nor is it one that should be attempted without serious consideration of the practicality and risk.

For digital resources please visit Utah Education Network’s Learn@Home, which provides links for PreK-Grade 12 teachers, students, and parents/caregivers.

For families that are seeking internet options to support digital learning, please visit the following link for Utah solutions related to COVID-19.

Statewide Connectivity and Learning Resources to Support Students During the Coronavirus Outbreak

School Meals

Emergency Meal Map

Continuity of Food Services

Continuity of food services, particularly for our most vulnerable students and families, is an important consideration. We urge Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to consider continuing food services throughout the extended dismissal. Approximately 50 percent of K-12 students rely on breakfast and lunch provided through the school system in Utah.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Child Nutrition Programs, including the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), operate through group feeding sites. During major outbreaks, USDA allows waivers to certain requirements. The Utah State Board of Education is currently seeking four waivers from USDA to assist local schools.

Partner and Community Resources

United Way 2.1.1

Utah Food Bank

Commodity Food Supplemental Program (CFSP)

Find a Food Pantry

Utahns Against Hunger

Waiver Resources

Child Nutrition Program State by State COVID-19 Waivers
United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service 

Remote Learning and Student Confidentiality

This document contains best practices in accordance with federal and state law. Local policies can be stricter than what is found in this guidance, so please consult your local policies as well.

May educators use web conferencing software to hold a virtual class?

In general, yes. Providing instruction and allowing students to converse with each other does not generally constitute a disclosure of education records protected by Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Educators should avoid disclosing information from education records in a virtual class just the same as they would during an in-person class. As a best practice, educators should take care to ensure that access to the virtual class is secure. For example, there have been cases where educators have publicly posted the link to access the class in a public forum, like Twitter, which has allowed individuals not associated with the class to access it and even in some cases hijack the class with inappropriate content. As a best practice, directions (with hyperlinks) should be posted either to a student calendar or directly within the Learning Management System (LMS) (Canvas or Google Classroom).

Which privacy/security requirements must be met for web conferencing or other software to be approved?

This question is best answered by the Local Education Agencies (LEAs) data manager or IT director. In general, not every usage of an online service means information is disclosed from an education record. For example, asking students to view a video on YouTube generally would not require any information to be disclosed from education records. If Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is disclosed, but only directory information is disclosed (e.g., a login is created to access a resource library), then you may use the resource in accordance with your directory information policy. If PII is disclosed, you should also consider if it is a general audience website (i.e., not specifically intended for K-12 audiences). If it is for general audiences, for example, a website like Zoom, then you only need to ensure that the website does not claim control/ownership over the information and that they do not redisclose the PII. If it is an educational website receiving PII, certain requirements will need to appear in the online agreement. This can be handled by having the provider sign a Data Privacy Agreement (DPA). It is also possible that they may meet the audit requirement in other ways, such as by publicly posting the results of a self-assessment of their privacy policies (e.g., if they have signed the Student Privacy Pledge or if they have been reviewed by a Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) safe harbor (e.g., Privo, iKeepSafe, TrustArc).

How can we learn more about the specific security and privacy functions of our virtual learning software?

In some cases, the company will have specific tutorials, blogs, or other resources to explain the specific functionality. For example:

Is it an issue if the software an educator wants to use includes a lot of advertisements?

Advertising is a common part of the internet, and not all advertising is based on gathering information on a student over time and building an advertising profile (also known as behavioral advertising). Some advertisements appear contextually (e.g., if you go to a website for movie reviews, you will see advertisements for movies). The mere fact that advertising appears does not mean a student’s privacy is being violated. The only way this can be determined is by reviewing the company’s privacy policy and determining what information they use to provide advertising. Another solution is to have the vendor sign the Utah Student Privacy Alliance’s DPA, which includes provisions prohibiting behavioral advertising. Educators should also consider that websites that serve large numbers of pop-up ads may have other security issues. Students may be directed to update their browser settings to block pop-up ads (though note that in most modern browsers, this is the default setting). If the problem persists despite doing all of the above, then the website likely should be avoided. Districts should investigate installing adblockers on district-owned devices and if possible through their google suite for educators.

Is it an issue if parents or other individuals in the home can observe the virtual class?

This is a local decision. FERPA does not relate to physical classroom observations, and the same applies to virtual classrooms.

If educators hold a virtual class, may students appear on camera?

In general, yes. Educators should recommend and encourage some best practices to parents related to web conferencing. For example, since video will be taken in the student’s home, the camera should be positioned to ensure that nothing too personal is captured in the video. Students may be interacting with the class on a smartphone or easily portable device. Students could be reminded to not take the device (or at the very least turn off the camera and mute the microphone) if going into personal spaces, such as the bathroom. Teachers should also be respectful if parents desire not to turn on the camera so as to protect their privacy. Furthermore, educators should learn how to control the functionality of the software. For example, web conferencing software can be set so that no student can enter the room before the educator (which will minimize distracting conversations). It can also be set so that cameras and microphones default to off for all participants.

May an educator record a virtual class session?

In general, yes. If doing so, the educator should be transparent about it (i.e., every participant should know the session is being recorded). The educator should also be transparent about the purpose of the recording (e.g., it will be available so any students who missed the lesson may catch up) and who will be able to access the recording (e.g., if anyone else at the school, such as the principal or a supervisor, can access it). The educator should also indicate how long the recording will be maintained before it is deleted.

When may an educator have a one-on-one conversation with a student using web conferencing software?

This is part of the larger question of when is it appropriate for educators to have one-on-one conversations with students in general. Before conducting one-on-one conversations, we recommend that educators review their relevant ethics policies and standards related to communicating with students. Otherwise, educators should use approved methods for communication (e.g., work email address, not a personal one, etc.). The content of the intended conversation also determines the best way to proceed. Answering content-related questions or providing one-on-one help likely does not implicate any privacy laws. If the purpose is to discuss information from education records (e.g., discussing issues with grades), extra care should be taken to ensure that the conversation is private (e.g., asking that other individuals in the home not be present). As a best practice, teachers may consider holding virtual office hours (i.e., have a specific set of hours where they will be available on the web conference to answer questions and be available to students). It is also highly recommended that educators log a record of all one-on-one conversations (e.g., when they started and finished, what was discussed) and make those available to the student and parent.

Is it a problem for educators to publicly post on social media a picture of their entire class together on a web conference (including student pictures and names in the process)?

This likely constitutes a disclosure of directory information, the same as would appear in a yearbook or a class photo. Educators should consult their LEA’s directory information policy and ensure that the disclosure is permitted. They should also check to see if any students have been opted out of directory information disclosures and then ensure that those students are not included in the image. Educators could also consider simply not making the photo public, but rather just sharing with class parents (the exact same as generally occurs when sharing a class photo).

May we share student contact information with classmates so they may stay in touch during the soft closure? 

In general, yes, parents may request the contact information of their child’s peers, and schools may generally share it with them. In all cases, a school may disclose a student’s email address to a classmate. They may also disclose a student’s phone number unless the parent has opted out of the disclosure in accordance with the school’s directory information policy.

May we disclose student personally identifiable information to outside entities addressing the COVID-19 outbreak? 

Under FERPA, schools may share student information with public health officials and other outside entities in situations where there is a significant and articulable threat to the health and safety of students and others in the school community. FERPA and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions from the United States Department of Education discusses various scenarios and issues related to making disclosures using FERPA’s health and safety exception during the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Additional Resources

United States Department of Education: 

Contact Information

If you have additional questions, please e-mail privacy@schools.utah.gov, call (801) 538-7523 or e-mail Todd Call at todd.call@schools.utah.gov.

Assessment

On March 20, 2020 the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) suspended the requirements for schools to administer statewide assessments for the 2019-2020 school year and directed the Superintendent to pursue all related and necessary waivers with the United States Department of Education and engage with legislators to exempt the Board and schools from administering statewide assessments through legislation if needed.

Utah State Board of Education Votes to Waive Requirements and Suspend Assessment Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Utah State Board of Education Public Relations

Waiver Application Process

The United States Department of Education (USED) released a consolidated and expedited waiver process on flexibility for states on Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Assessment and Accountability Requirements. On March 20, 2020, Utah submitted its waiver request to USED. Utah received formal approval of the waiver request from USED on March 27, 2020.

Dear Chief State School Officer
March 20, 2020

ESEA Waiver Request

USED Approval Letter

The consolidated waiver application process includes the requirement that state education entities provide notice of the submission of the waiver as well as an opportunity for the public to comment on the request. The details of the request and a tool for submitting comments can be found at:

Utah Assessment and Accountability Public Comment
Powered by Qualtrics

The public comment window will be available until April 21, 2020.

Addressing Fear and Anxiety

Regular communication is a great tool to prevent misconception and fear. Providing staff, parents, and students with as much information as possible will help misinformation and fear from taking hold. Educational agencies must also keep in mind privacy restrictions and the importance of confidentiality when sharing details on those who have any disease.

It is important to remember that children look to adults for guidance on how to react to stressful events. If staff, parents, or guardians seem overly worried, a student’s anxiety may rise. However, students also need factual, age appropriate information about the potential seriousness of disease risk and concrete instruction about how to avoid infections and spread of disease. Teaching students positive preventive measures, talking with them about their fears, and giving them a sense of some control over their risk of infection can help reduce anxiety.

The following are some specific guidelines from both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) on how to talk to students about COVID-19:

Remain calm and reassuring.

  • Students will react to and follow your verbal and nonverbal reactions.
  • What you say and do about COVID-19, current prevention efforts, and related events can either increase or decrease student anxiety.
  • Remind students that you and the adults at their school are there to keep them safe and healthy.
  • Let your students talk about their feelings and help reframe their concerns into the appropriate perspective.

Make yourself available.

  • Students may need extra attention from you and may want to talk about their concerns, fears, and questions.
  • It is important that they know they have someone who will listen to them; make time for them.

Avoid excessive blaming.

  • It is important to avoid stereotyping any one group of people as responsible for the virus. 
  • Bullying or negative comments made toward others should be stopped and reported to administration, immediately.
  • Be aware of any comments that other staff are making in front of students.
  • Intentionally and persistently combat bias and stigma.

Monitor television viewing and social media.

  • Speak to students about how many stories about COVID-19 on the internet or television may be based on rumors and inaccurate information.
  • Talk to your students about factual information of this disease—this can help reduce anxiety.
  • Constantly watching updates on the status of COVID-19 can increase anxiety—avoid this.
  • Be aware that developmentally inappropriate information (i.e., information designed for adults) can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in younger students.

Maintain a normal routine to the extent possible.

  • Keep to a regular schedule, as this can be reassuring and promotes physical health.
  • Encourage students to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities, but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed. 

Be honest and accurate.

  • Don’t ignore student concerns, but rather explain that at the present moment very few people in this country are sick with COVID-19.
  • Children can be told this disease is thought to be spread between people who are in close contact with one another—when an infected person coughs or sneezes.  
  • It is also thought it can be spread when you touch an infected surface or object, which is why it is so important to protect yourself.

School resources to promote healthy habits for young students can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website

Questions?

For communications and general questions regarding this bulletin, please contact us at coronavirus@schools.utah.gov.

Archived

Overview

The Utah Department of Health continues to lead the state of Utah’s response to COVID-19. For the most up-to-date information, please consult the state's website at coronavirus.utah.gov.

The state of Utah’s COVID-19 Task Force is continuously meeting to plan and coordinate ongoing state response. The Utah State Board of Education (USBE) is participating on this task force. We expect to provide additional information and updated guidance specific to schools and families, as the situation progresses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently released Interim Guidance for Administrators of United States Childcare Programs and K-12 Schools, as well as instructions for Travelers from Countries with Widespread Sustained (Ongoing) Transmission Arriving in the United States (currently China, Iran, Italy and South Korea). Please review this information as you plan and prepare at both the school and district level.

If a school-sanctioned trip has recently returned from travel in China, Iran, Italy, Japan or South Korea, please call the Utah Department of Health at (888) epi-utah (374-8824). If others in your school community have traveled to any of these countries, they should let the Health Department know by calling the same number.

Cleaning and Disinfecting on School Grounds

The Utah Department of Health is asking schools to follow general preventative guidance from the CDC to help keep COVID-19 from spreading: Stay home if you are sick, use and reinforce routine cough and handwashing hygiene measures.

In addition, using third-party certified cleaning products, frequently clean areas that experience high traffic for both students and staff. Disinfect areas and frequently touched surfaces such as bathrooms, nurse’s offices, cafeterias, drinking fountains and door handles. Make sure that school custodial staff are trained in the proper use and handling of disinfectants.

It is everyone’s responsibility to maintain a clean environment and practice good hygiene.

Additionally, follow CDC’s guidance Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations for cleaning and disinfecting community facilities, such as schools.

Excused and Unexcused Absences

We know that fears may be high as identified cases increase, particularly for families with loved ones living in the home who have a compromised immune system. Please exercise great caution before deciding not to excuse absences related to COVID-19 and starting the truancy process because of them.

Given the urgent and rapidly changing landscape due to the spread of the coronavirus, USBE is working with stakeholders and the Governor‘s Office to ensure that absences relating to public health emergencies are not counted toward the definition of chronic, or an unexcused, absence.

Additionally, a parent may hold their student out of school for health and safety reasons. Each Local Education Agency (LEA) is the ultimate arbiter as to whether the reason is truly a health/safety issue. Absences for health/safety issues should not be counted as unexcused and any such student should not be labeled truant.

Absences related to the 14-day quarantine protocol related to recent travel warnings, as provided by the (CDC, should also be excused.

At this time, please avoid giving rewards or incentives to students and staff for perfect attendance.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you suggest we respond to rumors about the spread of COVID-19?

The best antidote to rumor is fact. When you communicate with your community, continue to remind them that the State of Utah’s COVID-19 Community Task Force About Novel Coronavirus website is the best place to find up to date information and guidance on the novel coronavirus, including guidance direct from the CDC.

What if a student is exposed?

If a student has been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or has recently traveled to areas with community transmission and is showing symptoms place the student in a room with the door closed. Have a parent or guardian contact their doctor before going to a clinic. The school should then notify the local health department.

Due to the community spread of the virus, when cases in our towns are identified, do you recommend School closure?

Deciding to close a school is a local decision, and one that USBE will not provide the directive on, especially if it is a public health concern. In the case of COVID-19, the decision to close a school would come from the local public health officials. USBE will be publishing considerations on potential school closure thresholds. For now, the Health Department advises that schools treat COVID-19 prevention as they would any other respiratory disease.

What if a parent is requesting student contact information, that is not their own student/child?

There have been recent questions regarding parents being able to request contact information (phone number, e-mail address) of their child’s peers so that they can stay in touch during the soft closure of schools. Schools in Utah generally have a directory information policy, which allows them to share directory information (such as name, e-mail address, or phone number). In general, a parent may opt out of certain parts of directory information (such as the phone number), but may not opt out of having a student’s e-mail address disclosed within the class.

Because of this, parents may request the contact information of their child’s peers, and schools may generally share it with them. In all cases, a school may disclose a student’s email address to a classmate. They may also disclose a student’s phone number unless the parent has opted out of the disclosure.

Why is the guidance we're receiving now different than it was before?

COVID-19 response in Utah will be a rapidly evolving situation. There will be updates to guidance from the CDC, the Health Department and USBE in the coming days and weeks, and the updated guidance will from time-to-time contradict and therefore supersede previous guidance. As the global and local spread of the disease changes, as state and local plans are put into place and enacted, and as our knowledge of COVID-19 itself becomes more sophisticated, we will work with oversight from the COVID-19 Task Force to provide you the most up-to-date information possible.

We know that managing uncertainty is challenging and thank you for your partnership in responding promptly and appropriately to this situation as it unfolds.

Information for Families

As you communicate with your communities about COVID-19, we continue to recommend that you emphasize common disease prevention measures as the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many of the precautions that help prevent other respiratory diseases, like colds and the flu, can also help keep an illness like COVID-19 from spreading. This printable poster from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Stop the Spread of Germs, contains the most important points:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your sleeve or a tissue. Throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Additionally, the resources in this guide are intended to help parents, guardians, and families understand the school’s role during a closure, commitments to students, and what making days up at the end of the school year looks like at the moment:

Translated Materials

The CDC has provided materials specific to COVID-19 in English, Spanish, and Simplified Chinese:

Additionally, the resources in this guide are intended to help parents, guardians, and families understand the school’s role during a closure, commitments to students, and what making days up at the end of the school year looks like at the moment:

Travel Guidance

Students and staff planning or returning from travel should consult the CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel website. It lists geographic areas with widespread or sustained community transmission and compiles the CDC’s official COVID-19 warnings and alerts related to nonessential travel. The Frequently Asked Questions and Answers sections on Canceling or Postponing Travel, Air or Cruise Travel and Returning from Travel may be particularly informative.

Anyone whose last day in one of the affected countries, or outbreak areas within the United States, was March 4 or afterwards, should stay home and monitor their health for 14 days before returning to work/school. The Utah Department of Health is asking travelers returning from those countries, as well as Japan, to reach out to them by calling (800) 456-7707 for further preventative instructions.

The decision to postpone or cancel travel for work or school-related functions is to be made at the local level. LEAs have the authority to provide this guidance to staff and students as the situation evolves. Please work directly with your Local Health Department for further information regarding non-essential travel.