Murray City School District officials (and other districts in Utah) are often asked after significant snow storms why we prioritize in-person instruction when we have the technology to do remote learning. It’s a valid question.
It’s well known Murray schools have been at the forefront of public education’s use of technology in the last decade. We were among the first districts in Utah to adopt a 1:1 laptop per student initiative in 2018. This move proved insightful as schools were forced to move to digital home learning in March 2020.
Following that, Murray was the first district in the nation to create a dedicated internet connection for students using our devices at home. This leveled the playing field for students, ensuring a more robust and equitable ability to get the connectivity they needed regardless of their family’s internet services and capacity.
Further, we have an enthusiastic team of educators who are not only adaptive to technology but using what they have learned to teach and demonstrate our advancements to other districts and schools.
We are proud of our ability to leverage technology to pivot when necessary. However, there are other essential services to consider. Like any public service facility, communities count on schools to remain open. Here are three critical services schools offer, along with education:
- Supervision: Open schools provide adult supervision. Many students must remain home alone without supervision when we pivot to remote learning. Parents and guardians are also often in the workforce providing essential services, irrespective of school schedules. Some include emergency response, public works services clearing roads, and power companies that keep everyone’s lights on, to name only a few. Staying home from work isn’t an option for everyone.
- Shelter: An open school building provides warmth and safety. Sadly, we have students who are homeless or experiencing various housing-related challenges where their school is one of the few stable places they can be during the weekday. Go here to read a perfect example of this in the life of Thomas Schwab, who was homeless and graduated from Murray High School in 2018. The school was a lifeline for him.
- Food: Nearly half of our students qualify for free or reduced meals at school. This food is not just a convenience; it provides nutritional needs for kids who may otherwise go without during the day. We have fantastic community partners in the Murray Boys and Girls Club, USANA, Murray Children’s Pantry, and other local churches who supplement our food services with weekend and holiday meals. But they are limited in supply. Our schools fill a critical insecurity gap with breakfast and lunch services.
There are other valuable services, too. But it’s important to remember that when Murray and other districts contemplate the call to go remote for the day, this is a layered decision. Yes, safety is and will always be the highest consideration – children and their families must be able to transport to and from school.
And we agree road conditions across the district are not always equal. But parents always retain the right to keep their kids home from school if their unique situation doesn’t match the district’s assessment. We will always communicate that and instruct our teachers to work with your student remotely or when they return to school to stay caught up.
We hope this explanation helps everyone understand the thought process behind weather-related decisions and the importance of keeping schools open for all students.