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Sugar House Journal

Salt Lake City School District works to combat growing Covid-19 concerns

Sep 07, 2021 16h06 ● By Lizzie Walie

The Salt Lake City School District has partnered with the Salt Lake County Health Department to bring vaccines to students and the community. (Photo courtesy of Salt Lake City School District)

By Lizzie Walje | [email protected]

As the 2020-21 academic school year came to an end, many students, parents and educators believed that concerns regarding Covid-19 would begin to dissipate. However, with ongoing issues pertaining to the highly contagious Delta variant and nationwide vaccination refusals, the Salt Lake City School District is once again looking for ways to mitigate the risk of transmission all while keeping children in the classroom and away from virtual learning. 

Currently, roughly 45% of Utah’s population is fully vaccinated. In fact, just recently, the CDC authorized and encouraged those with autoimmune disorders and deficiencies to consider booster shots. While certain parts of the country are embracing the vaccine, on the contrary, multiple states are setting record highs for cases and hospitalizations, a poignant reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over. 

How is the Salt Lake School District responding? With plenty of initiatives to help students receive vaccinations and safely usher them back into learning spaces. However, there are challenges that come with vaccinating those in the district. First and foremost, the district is now a minority-majority district, meaning that there are now more ethnic minority students than Caucasian students. For those who have followed vaccination efforts closely, minority communities are often hesitant to receive vaccinations as a result of previous misconduct as perpetrated and recognized by the United States government. The issue is further compounded by the fact that young people, in general, are more likely to bypass the vaccine. 

One way the District is trying to help is by incorporating vaccine efforts into typical back-to-school programming. For instance, the District’s back-to-school fair will connect students with district programs, resources, and the opportunity to meet the new superintendent, Timothy Gadson. Additionally, vaccinations will be present for those interested at the event. 

Gadson has been particularly vocal about how mitigating the fallout of Covid-19 related issues will be one of the biggest challenges he will face in his first year as superintendent. Yet he is convinced striking the balance comes from not treating the district like a monolith, and rather, working to recognize each school in the district as its own unique entity. Recognizing autonomy, he believes, will help cultivate a stable sense of self-governance. 

“Each school has its own personality,” Gadson acknowledged at the Title VI meet and greet event held Aug. 13 at the Urban Indian Center.

For those unable to attend the back-to-school fair, there are still plenty of opportunities to receive the vaccine. While the District is not requiring the vaccine in order for students to attend in-person classes, they strongly recommend students who are older than 12 and eligible, to consider receiving it. Despite their best efforts, the District does acknowledge the ongoing optics surrounding Covid-19 are complicated, and there’s no way to predict how things will unravel. For now, in-person learning will resume as expected, with regular and cautious tracking of the Delta variant and its trends. 

The district is currently partnered with the Salt Lake County Health Department to provide vaccination clinics for Salt Lake School District families and the community at large. Consider visiting one of the clinics for a free first dose (with a second free dose to follow). No appointments are necessary, and everyone is welcome. 

For more information regarding back-to-school vaccines, the District regularly updates its offerings and clinic locations at or