The Provo City School Board voted to continue with the current half-time school schedule until the end of the school year instead of returning to class full-time in a 6-1 vote on Tuesday night.
Students in the Provo City School District have progressively come back to school as COVID-19 restrictions have changed. The district has been in phase two of the process for the past few months, during which all students attend in-person Monday-Thursday on an early dismissal schedule.
A shift to phase three would implement a regular Monday-Friday schedule for all students as permitted by health conditions, increasing not only the days that students are in school but also the amount of time per day in the classroom.
Several members of the community were present at the board meeting to share their opinions.
“Even with an adjusted schedule, I’m currently working beyond my contract hours to keep up with the demand of the school year. If we move to phase three, I will either be working well beyond my contract hours, or I will sacrifice the quality of instruction for my students,” said Erika Larsen, an English teacher at Provo High.
Larsen expressed her concern for the emotional health of students, teachers and herself, stating that everyone is “exhausted, and my mental health and that of my students is suffering this year.”
Larsen was joined at the meeting by fellow Provo High English teacher Jessica Theurer, who also expressed her concerns for the mental health and well-being of students and teachers.
“Teachers and students need a consistent school schedule to secure our mental stability during this pandemic. Without it, we can’t ensure academic success in our classrooms. We can’t take care of ourselves, which means we won’t be able to take care of our students,” Theurer said.
Provo High students Sally Otterstrom and Alison Bartholomew also shared their opinions of moving to phase three during the meeting.
“I know that education is way more important than jobs and extracurriculars, but moving to phase three will cause me to have to quit my coaching job, and I’m worried that there will be less time to work on schoolwork at home because of the extended hours of school,” Otterstrom said.
“I had two different friends who were both fired from their jobs, because they were not able to appear on time to shifts because we kept moving from phase to phase,” Bartholomew said. “It’s really important that we have that stability.”
Parents of students of all ages in the district expressed concerns for students who are struggling to keep up with the demands of school. One such parent is Michelle Wages, who has children attending Franklin Elementary, Dixon Middle and Provo High Schools.
“No matter what you choose, coming into the fourth quarter, use that money that’s coming to us to provide our teachers with some instructional assistants to help those students who are falling behind. Some of those students have a C, but these are definitely B+ and A students and they just need that little bit of help,” Wages said.
Most board members were in favor of keeping school schedules consistent for the rest of the year.
“For the sake of consistency, I would probably oppose that motion and ask that we remain in the schedule and direct our staff to provide more supports especially for elementary school and find what we can for more support,” said school board member McKay Jensen.
A survey was sent out to the community, teachers and students in the school district earlier this week asking for input on transitioning to the next phase of the COVID-19 education plan for the district. Many of the responses echoed the sentiments of opinions shared at the board meeting advocating for stability and consistency.
Results of the survey can be found on the school district website.