Utah lawmakers agree to change school COVID policies


The Utah House passed a bill Monday that would require school districts to request permission from the state superintendent of instruction, the House speaker, the Senate president and the governor before closing because of COVID-19 cases.

Gov. Spencer Cox is expected to sign House Bill 183, which passed the Senate last week.

School boards would be required to prove why they need to close at a public meeting and then vote to approve the closure. After that, state officials would need to sign off on the proposal.

The bill would temporarily suspend the state's Test to Stay program. According to the program's guidelines, schools must test for COVID-19 if they have 1,500 or more students and a positivity rate of 2% in the past 14 days. Students who tested positive were told to stay home. Students who did not take a test were isolated for a five-day period.

Schools with less than 1,500 students that had 30 students test positive for the virus within the past 14 days also would be required to do the testing.

The bill passed the House by a vote of 55-16.

Utah has seen an uptick on COVID-19 cases but none of the its 41 school districts are closed, said Mark Peterson, public relations director for the Utah State Board of Education.

The Utah Education Association did not specifically address the bill but said it supports following the science in a statement.

“We all want what is best for our students to learn and thrive, which right now, absolutely depends on our schools being safe and remaining open for in-person learning,” the group said in a statement. “The best way to address these issues is to slow the spread of the virus in our communities by following the recommendations given by the medical experts at the state and county health departments.”

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