Earlier today, Utah Governor Spencer Cox opened the door for schools to return to remote learning due to the Covid Omicron variant onslaught. The Park City School Board has scheduled an emergency board meeting for tomorrow at 10 AM to discuss whether schools should go remote.
This could mean that one, some, or all of our schools will change to remote learning next week due to the Omicron variant striking Park City.
Earlier today, we received what seems to be copy of a text from Park City High School Principal Roger Arbabi to teachers confirming that school will be in person tomorrow.
We will provide more information as it becomes available.
This imagery from KPCW is the funniest thing I have seen in weeks. Mountains. Check. Well-dressed CEO posing on a multi-million dollar deck. Check. A couple of dollars for employees. Check.
Yes, Vail employees, if you will work until the last day, whether there is snow or not, and if we continue to employ you, you will get $2 per hour more.
Did the ski patrollers not get this memo?
I’m sure it will change their minds.
It represents much of what is wrong with Park City today.
Many of us want to better understand the number of cases of Covid in the Park City School District. We have provided a link for a couple of years; however, last year PCSD changed how they are reporting numbers and our current link no longer worked.
That has been updated. So, now if you want to find out the current number of cases, you can click on the link in the upper right portion of the screen (or in the pancake menu on mobile devices).
Sorry for not updating that sooner.
On any random Tuesday, teachers have a tough job. Throw in a worldwide pandemic, coupled with a new Covid variant that may be as contagious as measles, and teachers are between a rock and hard place. They are in close quarters with children for 7+ hours a day and those children often don’t follow the best practices.
When I think about today’s Park City classroom, I imagine a video like the Jurassic Park DNA sequence but with Covid viruses floating around. That’s a lot of viruses floating through the classroom. I’m not a scientist but I do know:
Amount of virus in the air + Time of exposure = Odds of catching it
That is leading to teachers becoming sick. When they are sick or have been exposed to someone who is, they have to quarantine at home for at least 5 days. Some teachers have a support structure and others don’t.
If you’d like to help those teachers who are infected with Covid and may need a little help, please consider supporting a local program that provides Grubhub and supermarket gift cards for Park City teachers out sick (and their families).
Everyone needs a little help now and then. Teachers support our community every day. This is an opportunity for us to support them back.
As they say, poop doesn’t lie. In this case, poop is telling us that Covid is running rampant through the Snyderville Basin and Park City. Every week, Utah’s Water Quality department posts the amount of Covid found in sewage at each water treatment facility.
The last time we checked in was September 2021 and we were doing pretty well. We were running at about 200 MGC (million gene copies) per person per day. MGC is a measure of the amount of Sars-Cov-2 found in sewage. Today we are running at 12,448 MGC at the East Canyon WRF that serves much of the Snyderville Basin and 17,989 MGC at the Silver Creek WRF that serves much of Park City and the eastern side of the Basin.
For reference, The Snyderville Basin’s numbers increased 16-fold since before Christmas. Park City’s numbers have increased 12-fold since December 21. This number is likely influenced both by locals getting Covid and increased tourists bringing the virus in.
Either way, it points to confirmation that Summit County’s mask mandate is warranted. Hopefully, that measure will help stem the spike, so that schools and local’s lives can get back to normal. However, for now, we are in the thick of it.
Silver Creek WRF (handles much of Park City)
East Canyon WRF (handles much of Basin)
Note: the way the Utah Water Quality Department has changed since our September 2021 article. So our previous article references a different measurement scale. This story uses the new numbers.
Park City School District and the Health Department had better figure out what to do with Park City High School amid Covid surge
Cases of Covid-19 are spiking at Park City High School. Currently, 46 kids have tested positive. Normally, more than 30 students with Covid would trigger what’s called “Test to Stay” at the school. This would mean that all students would need to be tested to continue in-person classes. However, due to the language in the Utah Legislation that created the Test to Stay program, if a student hasn’t been in school for the last 14 days, they aren’t counted. Due to the Christmas break, 29 of the 46 cases aren’t counted versus the Test to Stay threshold at PCHS.
So what we have is an outbreak, that can’t be officially treated as an outbreak, because of legislative rules. However, the Park City School Board, School District, and Health Department need to be treating this as a major issue. Covid cases at the high school are going to blow up; Test To Stay will be triggered. The numbers could be so staggering that the Summit County Health Department will have to put in mandates. There may be so many kids out of school that the district has to make alternate plans for remote education.
Why do I say this? The transmission capability of Omicron and personal experience. I got Covid before Christmas. I am triple vaxxed and likely got Omicron while waiting an hour for takeout, while wearing a mask, at Bombay house in SLC. I tested positive for Covid a couple of days later. My kids took a PCR test and tested negative. A couple of days after that, they tested positive. My story isn’t uncommon.
Whether a high school student tested positive on the morning before classes started, and thus they are not counted in the numbers, is irrelevant. Many high school kids are social and likely have spread this to their friends. Their friends will test negative for a bit and then they will test positive. Between the two tests, they will spread it to others.
I would be remiss if I didn’t state that Omicron seems rather benign for many people. It was for my family. However, public policy is not that nuanced. A positive test is a positive test and that will dictate the actions taken. I would guess we will have 150 positives at PCHS within a week. I wouldn’t be shocked if the number stretched to 300 at some point soon.
The question is what the School Board, School District, and Summit County Health Department are doing about this?
Let’s start with the School Board. I was a little shocked that there wasn’t an emergency meeting being held by the Park City School Board. I would think the board would want to discuss issues they find important, given the fact that the high school will likely move to a Test to Stay paradigm. Also, after the debacle at Parley’s Park earlier this year, I would think the board would want to ask some pointed questions of Superintendent Gildea and the district:
- Have you communicated with the Health Department to ensure there are enough tests (and testing teams) for 1,500 high school students to be tested?
- If there are not enough tests, and the school goes full remote, has the district communicated with teachers and students on how remote learning will work? Have they planned for reaching out to ELL and disadvantaged students to ensure all students are treated equitably.
- How will Test to Stay practically work at the High School? Will it delay start times? How do we keep students safe while waiting for testing?
- For students that choose remote learning, or have to be remote, what plans do we have in place to help hundreds of students continue their learning process?
- Given the numbers at the high school, can we change any procedures to make students safer?
- Given student numbers, what can we do to keep teachers safe?
The board may say, we are on top of it, and emailing back and forth to make sure we are in a good place. The problem with that is that it violates Open Meeting laws. The public has a right to know what policy discussions are taking place in an open forum. So, there needs to be an official meeting.
From the School District and Health Department’s point of view, I think their Test to Start program that is available from 7:15 until 9:15 AM at the High School and Ecker Hill is a great start. However, I can’t find any information on Test to Stay protocols, which are likely going to be needed soon. The only mention is that that “At that time [after thresholds are met], Test to Stay protocols will be distributed to families. Compare this to the Alpine School District where they already clearly define what will happen and have a parental consent system ready.
Maybe that’s because Alpine School District has 89 schools and they take it more seriously. However, you’d think with only 7 schools in the Park City School District, we could have a plan ready and posted.
There is a lack of trust with the Park City School District. I ask myself if at 2 PM this afternoon the district gets word that over 30 students at PCHS, that can be “counted,” have Covid, will they successfully execute Test to Stay tomorrow?
Granted, I am a skeptic, but I don’t think so. I think it will be a mess. I hope they prove me wrong. To do that they will need:
- Top notch communications to the public that explains what is happening and how this works
- Excellent communciations for teachers/staff to explain how this impacts them.
- A process for testing all students quickly and efficiently.
- A mechanism to get parental consent for testing and a way to relay that to the people doing testing.
- A system for recording all data.
They will need all of this on day one. Whether that is today or next week.
Perhaps I am wrong and we won’t cross that threshold requiring Test to Stay at PCHS. However, we already blew past that, except for technicalities. Perhaps the school district and Health Department have table-topped this, so they have a plan in place that will survive the first encounter with students. That would be great and I would love to be wrong. Perhaps, the school district learned from the incident at Parley’s Park and has spent the month of December planning for this.
However, I fear that the district is so intent on making sure schools stay open that they haven’t accounted for, what seems now, the inevitability.
We should know soon enough.
This is a train headed down the track right toward us. I hope the district has got this. If they do, then it will go a ways toward me believing they have things under control. I would conclude that they have learned from the Parley’s Park incident and it engenders more trust.
If not, it’s likely many key school district players won’t politically survive the repercussions.
More information about Test to Stay is available here.
I firmly believe the only politics you can individually effect are local politics. Park City and Summit County residents demonstrated that with the Dakota Pacific project. Kudos to Mitch Solomon, and Friends of Summit County for Responsible Growth, for organizing an overwhelming community effort to Stop Dakota Pacific.
For all intents and purposes, Dakota Pacific is dead. Dakota Pacific has said they are working on a new proposal but that they cannot afford to spend another year working through details. Given that any reworked proposal will likely go back to the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission, there will be more than a year of discussions. Given Summit County is considering a development moratorium for six months, so that County Planners can catch a breathe, it’s likely more like two years for Dakota to come back. It sounds like Dakota’s economics won’t support that. That, in of itself, tells you something.
What that ultimately means is that Snyderville Basin residents have a chance to figure out what the area of land under the UOP should be. It could be a Tech Park. I am in favor of that. This winter so far has shown we have to diversify our economy. It could be a space for both affordable housing and an Olympic Village for the 2030 or 2034 Winter Olympics. If done well, that could solve a number of needs. It could be open space, trails, and an extension of Run-a-muck, if Summit County buys it at a discount and designates it as such.
Regardless, we the people did something special. A month ago the common wisdom was that four of five County Councilors would vote for Dakota Pacific. Today, that is no longer happening. Thanks to the people of the Snyderville Basin caring enough to become educated, showing up, and speaking, we made a difference.
No longer is Summit Couty giving a prized parcel away to a developer. We have the opportunity to make something better.
Thanks to all of you!
Over the past two weeks, KPCW did what a competent news organization does. They reported on the actions of the Park City School District related to enforcing masks at Parley’s Park Elementary School. On Thursday, the school district went Full Bully on KPCW. Their lawyer sent a letter to KPCW. PCSD’s lawyer, Joan Andrews, writes:
“Specifically, on November 17, 2021, you [KPCW] published in various media, including on your website and Facebook pages, the following statement: ‘During Tuesday’s Park City school board meeting, board member Andrew Caplan said Parley’s Park Elementary School did not violate the county mask order and called reports of violation fake news.’ This statement is demonstrably false and on behalf of the Board of Education, we demand the immediate retraction of same. More specifically, at no time was the term “fake news” used by Mr. Caplan. The use of this term appears deliberately calculated to create the belief in the community that Mr. Caplan is opposed to Summit County Public Health Order mask mandate, which he is not, nor is the Board as a whole.”
KPCW responded by saying, “The articles and broadcasts of which your client complains are truthful and accurate. Moreover, KPCW’s use of the words “fake news” is a fair and accurate representation of board member Andrew Kaplan’s comments during Tuesday’s meeting and such use absolutely was not ‘a deliberately calculated’ attempt to imply Mr. Kaplan or the board is against the Summit County public health order mask mandate. Despite our belief that KPCW could correctly continue to use those words, we have decided it is even more accurate – and in the listeners and readers’ best interest – to use direct quotes from Mr. Caplan instead of characterizing them.”
The Park City School District’s lawyer argued that KPCW used the term ‘fake news’ to imply Mr. Caplan and the school district were against mask mandates. KPCW argued that the term was accurately used to characterize Mr. Caplan’s comments.
I don’t believe KPCW is trying to say that Mr. Caplan, or the district administration, is against mask mandates. I think KPCW is saying that Mr. Caplan implied that the school district followed mask mandates at PPES from day one, when all signs point to the fact that they didn’t. If they didn’t follow the mandates, then they broke the law.
However, what I find rich from the Park City School District lawyer’s letter was the bullying from an organization that is responsible for teaching our children.
Park City School District’s lawyer writes, “In the meantime, the Board has asked me to convey that Board members and District administrators will not be engaging with KPCW with respect to its repeated queries for comment, appearances, or other interactions, at least until we have clarity around the outcome of the review of what happened during week one of the Parley’s Park Elementary School mandate. The Board and District will continue to communicate on matters of importance to their constituents through other channels.”
Did the school board members take the Welcoming Schools training? That statement from the Park City School Board is pure bullying. “Leave us alone or you’ll lose access to the school district!”
If I were KPCW, I would say, “That sounds fine PCSD. We, as a news organization, will continue to report the news. We are ready to speak to you whenever you are ready. We’ll continue to report the news based upon your school board meetings and your public reporting requirements.”
KPCW is frankly above this fray. KPCW reports the news and it appears the school board doesn’t like it. They seem to view it as some sort of vendetta against them. There is no vendetta; there is only the hope for honesty. KPCW is reporting on what they are seeing, hearing from people on-site, and comments from our community.
KPCW, please don’t back down against these threats. If the school district won’t speak to you, that’s their loss.
KPCW, you are doing great work in our community. You are the best news source in the Wasatch Back.
If you don’t fight for the people’s right to know what is happening, who is going to do it?
Most of us trust you far more than we trust them.
Keep up the good fight.
On Tuesday, the Park City Schol Board met and a number of parents attended to speak about the lack of enforcement of the Parley’s Park mask mandate. A few supporters of the school board spoke as well.
For some reason, the Park City School District no longer records videos of meetings. However, we were able to capture most of it.
I apologize for the quality. I arrived late, there was no place for a tripod, and I didn’t have the sound configured correctly until halfway through. So the video isn’t great. However, if you are interested, you definitely see a lot.
Pictures say a thousand words. I wish the school district would record the video portion of all meetings.