Utah joins states scrapping year-end tests for K-12 students
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah students in public elementary, middle and high schools will not take year-end standardized tests this spring because of the coronavirus pandemic that has shuttered schools for at least two weeks, the state board of education decided Thursday.
Utah's decision follows other states including Texas and Washington that scrapped the tests required by the federal government.
Utah and other states plan to ask U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to waive the testing requirements. The department has said states can apply for waivers, but no waiver covering them all has been announced.
Utah's public schools are closed for at least two weeks, and parents have been asked to oversee at-home learning.
The decision came a day after the Utah System of Higher Education announced all eight public colleges and universities in Utah have either canceled or postponed their graduation ceremonies because of increasing restrictions on large gatherings.
“It’s gut-wrenching,” department spokeswoman Melanie Heath said. “But it’s something that we feel is responsible to do.”
The eight schools have closed their campuses across the state and moved classes online for the semester to avoid spreading the illness.
Utah State University in Logan has decided to cancel all graduation and convocation plans on its campus, while the other seven institutions will postpone ceremonies to undetermined dates.
It is unclear when ceremonies will be held at the University of Utah, Weber State University, Southern Utah University, Dixie State University, Utah Valley University, Snow College and Salt Lake Community College.
Brigham Young University, a private university in Provo, also canceled its graduation ceremony, and Westminster College, a liberal arts college in Salt Lake City, has delayed its ceremony.
It is also unclear how many Utah public college students were set to graduate this spring, but about 190,000 were enrolled across the eight campuses.
The announcements came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged citizens to avoid groups of more than 10 people for the next eight weeks, putting pressure on ceremonies scheduled for early May.
Also Thursday, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said it won't have its choir performing at a conference in early April that had already been planned to go on without the public in attendance. Church leaders will now give the speeches, to be aired live from a small auditorium rather than the church conference center. Only a small number of people will be there with them, the faith said in a news release. The music will be pre-recorded.
Meanwhile, all in-person court hearings and trials were postponed for at least the next two weeks in Utah's Third District Court, which includes Salt Lake, Summit and Tooele counties. The judicial system there will try to start conducting remote proceedings starting March 27, according to an order issued by Presiding Judge Mark S. Kouris.
Utah has 78 cases of coronavirus and no deaths, health officials said Thursday. They had previously reported a higher number of cases, but later corrected it. More than 1,500 people have been tested.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. But for the elderly and people with existing conditions, it can cause more severe illness. The vast majority of those who are infected recover.