3,000 students have not entered the first week of school in Salt Lake City

And a big reason is that many still do not have the technology necessary to do so.

“I am concerned about how many children do not have access,” said Melissa Ford, president of the Salt Lake City School District’s Board of Education. “We can’t leave them behind.”

Sam Quentz, chief information officer of the district’s IT department, told the school board during this week’s meeting that he had 700 incomplete requests for computers as of Tuesday.

They are largely in three high schools in the district – followed by equipment for elementary and junior high children – and west of the city. For example, West High has the most outstanding need, with 320 children still needing access to technology.

East High has 200 pending requests and Highland High, Quantz said, is now mostly covered. Not every student has enough computers near the district, so some families are sharing between siblings.

Nevertheless, about 3,000 students in the district – or 14% of the district’s population – had to log in by the end of Tuesday, the second day of school.

Quentz said about 6,000 additional laptops were ordered in the district, but were delayed when a vendor ran out of materials. He has contracted with another provider to acquire 1,500 computers over the next few weeks. But this means that it may be a few months before some children can investigate.

The shortage affects low-income and minority families the most, he admitted, many of whom cannot afford to purchase their own equipment.

Ford said during the meeting, “The virus is scary, but I’m afraid the kids are not able to graduate from high school.” “I don’t think we are serving our children as well as we should be and could be.”

The district has also seen a large drop in enrollment, with about 1,000 fewer children overall, as families have moved children to other districts or opted to homeschool.

Last year, there were 22,018 students in Salt Lake City. As of this month’s initial headcount, it has 20,994.

If that happens, it is the biggest drop for the district, although the final count will not be available until October 1.

Enrollment numbers are used to determine how much money a district receives and how many teachers it can employ. So a major dip may have broader consequences. Quantz mentioned that, with its decrease, the district would be considered “overstretched”, although he did not say how many faculty members there are. Spokesperson Yandary Chatwin said layoffs are not yet being considered.

Salt Lake City, which has recently seen its population age, typically sees a drop in students from 400 to 600 every year. Districts in the surrounding suburbs of Salt Lake County, such as the Valley, see bumps due to small families moving out of the capital. But even the large district here, Granite, has seen a dip of a few hundred students, spokesman Ben Horsley said.

The state intends to release the numbers for all Utah schools early next week. State Superintendent Sydney Dixon added during a legislative meeting on Tuesday that she worried many students, so far, are “unaccounted for.” It declined to provide a number, but said it is not normally registered across the state.

“Students who were enrolled last year are not enrolled this year,” he insisted.

Most of the students leaving Salt Lake City are in elementary schools, said Quantz, which points to a problem with the epidemic. He suggests that parents may not like the district’s plan for the fall to be completely virtual and that they have decided to go elsewhere in places where the person is offered.

And the change adds to existing inequalities. Many of those leaving are eastbound, with families able to afford, for example, transportation to take their child elsewhere. For example, Beacon Heights Elementary at 2500 East, has 100 fewer children this year. Highland Park Elementary is at 1700 East. About 300 kindergartners have also left across the district (completing kindergarten, however, is not required in Utah).

“It’s the bell of danger,” said school board member Christy Swett. “this is. One thousand students are important. “

Both Swett and Ford said the district should now insist on opening schools as soon as possible so that more children do not relocate, as well as to deal with ongoing issues with the use of technology.

“It’s hard to know that hundreds of kids don’t have the equipment or connectivity, and we’ve still gone online-only,” Swett said.

Overall, the numbers seem to match how many children in Salt Lake City schools closed for the first time this spring. For example, about 15% of students at West High never check for virtual learning.

“It’s not enough,” Ford said. “We need to participate more.” She has suggested that possibly elementary students should return in person. This will help younger students who have a harder time learning online, and are more computer free for high school.

Interim Superintendent Larry Madden said he plans to meet with the county health department next week to determine if the matrix is ​​scheduled to reopen. It is expected to return face-to-face for positivity rates in the event that it is below 5% and is likely to be below 10. per 100,000 cases. “,” Madden noted.

He said he did not think those bars would be reached by the end of October, when the first term ends. This means, for now, the district’s focus will still be connected online to all students.