‘Out of Control’: When Schools Opened in a Virus Hot Spot

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A board member, Amanda Oaks, said that while there was concern nationally about the risks of students or teachers becoming ill from coronavirus in school, “My honest fear and the fear of some of my fellow board members is that that could completely flip the other direction as soon as we get a teen suicide associated with quarantine isolation.”

Some teachers in Canyons also feel strongly about the value of keeping schools open.

The teacher who was hospitalized, Charri Jensen, who teaches sewing and design, recovered enough to go home. In an interview, she said that she wanted people to take the virus more seriously. But she also said that when she was well enough she planned to go back to work.

She had become a high school teacher because she loved the social rituals of high school — “the dances and the football games and the assemblies and the extracurricular things” — and it made her sad, she said, that her students were missing out on some of those traditions.

There are these things I want these kids to be able to experience in life,” she said. “But then, is it worth it — for life, you know?”

The increase in cases, driven by 15-to-24-year-olds, began in early September, shortly after schools reopened and students returned to colleges. The state health department believes the surge started among college-age adults in Utah County, just south of Salt Lake County, home to the state’s two biggest universities, and then spread to high school students. Mr. Walker, the Draper mayor, thinks that some teenagers in his town were infected when older siblings came home from college for the weekend.

Since the semester started, a dozen schools in Salt Lake County have temporarily shifted to online learning because of high numbers of cases.

In September, as the Canyons board put off closing Corner Canyon High School, district officials and board members said that a vast majority of cases in the district’s schools were the result of exposures outside of school and that there was minimal spread within schools themselves.

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