Board Meeting Summary, August 17, 2021

Note: Recordings and documents for agenda items can be accessed via BoardDocs by clicking on the corresponding agenda items.

Canyons COVID-19 Action Plan

Canyons District will follow a comprehensive and evidence-driven Back-to-School Action Plan to maintain safe and welcoming learning environments in the 2021-2022 school year. The aim of CSD’s strategic and layered approach, which is put into place as the global COVID-19 health crisis is addressed at local levels, is to safeguard student wellness while also ensuring that students are provided access to a high-quality education and related services. To directly — but strategically — address wellness and academic issues, Canyons’ plan: 

  • Follows state law and current health order;
  • Is based on the most-recent COVID-19 surveillance data provided by health officials;
  • Ramps up safety and health protocols if case counts increase in a school community;
  • Mirrors the cleaning and sanitation efforts of the previous school year;
  • Stresses the importance of keeping students in school and engaged in learning.

As CSD started the year on Monday, Aug. 16, parents could choose to enroll their children in either in-person or online classes. Students who opted to participate in the inaugural year of Canyons Online, the remote-learning option for students of all ages, also are granted access to in-person extracurricular activities at both the elementary and secondary levels. To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools, says Canyons Superintendent Dr. Rick Robins, Canyons is dedicated to sanitary schools. Not only have CSD buildings been equipped with air filtration system that use electrostatic charges to remove fine particles from the air, but custodians will continue to scour buildings throughout the day and evening with hospital-grade detergents. Hand-sanitizer will be available in classrooms and hallways, and touchless water fountains have been installed, Robins said. Hand-washing will be strong encouraged, too. Dr. Robins, who remains in constant communication with the Salt Lake County Health Department, as well as local medical experts, reassures the CSD community that myriad safety protocols are in place for the safety of students and employees. Robins also noted that the District is awaiting on guidance regarding masks on school buses. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control calls for masks on public transit, including school buses, but the CDC policy may conflict with the state law that prohibits mask wearing if in-person instruction is provided. CSD’s plan calls for physical distancing where feasible. Outdoor learning spaces will be used when possible. Students also have assigned seats and co-horting is encouraged in an effort to aid any contact-tracing efforts of the Salt Lake County Health Department, which will decide close-contacted exposures in CSD schools. Dr. Robins also said that, while a new state law prohibits any Utah school district from enforcing a mask mandate on its own, a high rate of CSD employees — 73 percent — participated in last year’s CSD COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics. Vaccination clinics were held last year for age-eligible students who had parent permission. Additionally, CSD’s plan says that, regardless of vaccination status, students who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate at home for 10 days from the test date, Robins said. Students in isolation can access their schoolwork on Canvas, CSD’s online-learning management tool. Health authorities say that vaccinated students or students who have had COVID-19 within 90 days of a close-contact exposure can continue with studies uninterrupted. It’s recommended that non-vaccinated students quarantine at home for 10 days and access education via Canvas or continue attending with a mask. A student would not be considered exposed if both parties were wearing masks at the time of possible exposure, the plan states. A student also would not be considered exposed if they had been diagnosed with COVID-19 within the last 90 days, according to health authorities. At the seven-day mark, students can choose to be tested. If the test returns as negative, they may remove their masks at school. If they choose not to get tested, it’s recommended that they wear a mask at school for 10 days. Testing for COVID-19 is encouraged for those with symptoms. CSD will provide testing for students, employees Mondays and Thursdays from 6:30-8:30 a.m., starting Aug. 23 at the District Office, 9361 S. 300 East.  CSD nurses will oversee effort.  State law provides that if positive case counts reach 2 percent at a school, with 1,500 or more students, a “Test to Stay” event will be held. At CSD schools with fewer than 1,500 students, if there are 30 or more cases, then the school will conduct a “Test to Stay.” If a student tests positive at a Test to Stay, they will isolate for 10 days. If they test negative, they remain at school. If parents choose to not allow their child to be tested, the child will quarantine for 10 days unless they can provide a negative rapid-antigen test result from a medical facility. No testing will be done without the consent of parent.  Robins said that Canyons will take decisive action to curb COVID-19 spread if schools reach a certain threshold. Letters that alert the community to the rising case counts, as well as statements that strong encourages mask wearing and vaccinations, will be sent when specific thresholds are met, Dr. Robins said. He also said the letter will encourage those who are experiencing symptoms to stay home and access education via Canvas.  Student-attendance rules have been relaxed for another year, he said.  Canyons District’s ramped-up “vigilance actions” may be taken when schools of 1,500 or more students reach a 1 percent case count and ZIP code positive rates are going up.  If schools with fewer than 1,500 students have 15 or more cases, plus are experiencing increases in the ZIP code, then the vigilance actions may be taken. The Superintendent also said the District Administration may pause or limit assemblies, field trips dances, volunteers, crowds at activities, and small-group instruction if case counts start to go up in a specific school community.  “It’s important to note that every school community is unique and should be treated as such,” Dr. Robins. Robins also noted the re-launch of the COVID-19 Data Dashboard on the CSD website.  An online portal also has been created by CSD so parents, students and employees can directly send in concerns or comments. 

CSD’s ESSER Application

The Board approved a proposed application for federal funds to target academic and student-service needs in Canyons schools. Parents who responded to a survey about how CSD should spend federal COVID-19-related aid funds indicated they mostly wanted the district to focus on increasing achievement in literacy and mathematics. The second most-preferred priority, said Instructional Supports Director Dr. Amber Roderick-Landward, was bolstering the mental and physical safety and wellness of students. Nos. 3 and 4 were reaching out to students who stopped attending during the pandemic, and increasing opportunities for credit recovery and post-secondary preparedness. CSD’s allocation of ESSER III funds through the American Rescue Plan is $21,780,120. The funds will primarily be spent during the 2023 and 2024 school years. CSD’s plan calls for funds to support the launch and beginning years of Canyons Online, CSD’s new remote-learning program. Canyons also plans to use ESSER funds to hire extra school nurses, mental-health staff workers, community school facilitators, outreach and intervention mentors, and a two-way communication and translation service for non-English speaking parents, among other initiatives. 

JUUL Lawsuit

Canyons District may join a mass-action federal lawsuit targeting Juul Labs, the makers of e-cigarettes. Some 400 school districts across the country, including Tooele, Provo and Ogden districts, have become a part of the suit, which alleges that Juul engages in deceptive advertising, promotes underage vaping, and downplays the health risks of vaping. A trial is scheduled to begin in March in U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California. The Utah districts who have joined the suit against Juul, which has promoted vaping products in such flavors as crème brulee and cucumber, will be represented by the Salt Lake-based law firm Kirton McConkie. If successful, the districts who join the suit could receive money from Juul, valued at $10 billion, to pay for education initiatives, student-supervision personnel, cessation counselors, and vaping detectors, among other tools and programs for vaping-prevention efforts. At the next meeting of the Board of Education, members will be asked vote on whether to join the litigation. 

Strategic Planning

Superintendent Dr. Rick Robins reported that members of the Administration who are spearheading the ongoing Strategic Plan have started the community-input survey. Principals also have been asked to suggest students and parents with varied interest and backgrounds — and from all corners of CSD — to participate in focus groups. According to Dr. Robins, the District is particularly interested in hearing from voices that are traditionally underrepresented or do not have a platform to share their thoughts with the district on a consistent or regular basis. The Board also discussed the process that must be followed if more than three Board members attend a strategic-planning meeting and whether Board members should attend. Utah Open Meeting Laws prohibit a quorum of Board members if the meeting has not been appropriately noticed according to state law.

Constitution Day

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Bob Dowdle discussed how the District plans to observe Constitution Day in September. Materials include a Constitution Day overview film with a short summary of the U.S. Constitution and how it impacts a student’s daily life. 

Consent Agenda

The Board of Education approved the Consent Agenda, including the minutes for the Aug. 3, 2021 meeting; hire and termination reports; purchasing bids; student-overnight travel; July financial reports; USBE Early Literacy Plan for 2021-2022. 

Policy Updates

The Board of Education updated policies governing student attendance; vision screening, and district- and school-sponsored websites. The Board also deemed obsolete policies on student hearing, homework, test and examinations; remediation; community use of school property and equipment. 

 

Patron Comment

Carolyn Erickson told the Board she is concerned about the mental health of teenage students.  She urged daily challenges to compliment others and expressions of gratitude.

Karlan Richards told the Board that discipline in the classroom is a concern and asked the Board to investigate the principles of Critical Race Theory, which she said is divisive and detracts from the academic focus that students need after the COVID-19 year. 

Adam Cota encouraged additional COVID-19 protocols in Canyons schools. He urged Canyons District to strongly encourage the use of face coverings, put into place physical distancing guidelines, and co-hort students according to the mask preference. 

Rochelle Griffin urged the Board and Administration to promote mask wearing.

Dr. Karen Moser asked the District to encourage the use of masks in schools. 

Kirsten Capunay encourages Canyons to promote the use of masks in schools. 

Jennifer Nazzaro expressed concern that Canyons’ COVID-19 protocols are not as stringent as last year. She encouraged the District to support a mask mandate. 

Superintendent and Business Administrator Reports

Dr. Robins thanked employees for their work to start school in such a smooth fashion.   He also thanked parents and students for their enthusiasm and support for CSD schools.

Mr. Leon Wilcox said it’s exciting to see the completion of the newly built high schools.  He also reported on the sale of the lease-revenue bonds to improve and build schools.

Board of Education Member Reports

Mrs. Clareen Arnold noted the excitement surrounding the opening of the new schools and expressed appreciation for Dr. Robins and Mr. Wilcox and the preparation done for the Board presentations.  She also thanked her fellow Board members for their hard work and robust discussions.

Ms. Holly Neibaur noted the whirlwind activity surrounding the opening of three new schools, the start of school in the midst of a health crisis, and the completion of the ESSER application. She noted meeting her son’s new teacher. 

Mr. Steve Wrigley said he appreciated the personnel who worked on the projects at Alta, Brighton and Hillcrest.  If the District would have waited to build the projects, he said, the costs would have limited what CSD could deliver for the community. He said he is grateful to work with his fellow Board members and the Administration, who must evaluate so many factors to make decisions and quell concerns.

Mrs. Amanda Oaks referred patrons to the infographic that was mailed to patrons and posted on the website about how patrons can address issues, connect, and interact with the teachers, administrators, the District Administration, and the Board of Education. 

Mrs. Amber Shill agreed with the comments made so far by other Board members and noted the historic nature of the ribbon-cutting evens and openings of three newly built high schools.  She also attended the first-day activities as Butler Middle, Butler Elementary and Brighton High. 

Mr. Mont MIllerberg said it was “fun to go all of the ribbon-cuttings” at Brighton, Alta, and Hillcrest high schools, which all have special features for their respective communities.  He also mentioned he and his wife were able to tour Midvalley Elementary, which opened last year to limited visitors because of the COVID-19 restrictions. He said CSD has worked hard to improve buildings and employee relations. 

President Tingey said the rebuilds of the buildings across Canyons will add to the legacy of excellence and opportunity for CSD students.  She is thankful to be a part of the legacy that CSD is building. 

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