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KUER’s Southeast Utah Bureau is based in San Juan County. The Southwest Utah Bureau is based in the St. George area. Both initiatives focus on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues, faith and spirituality and other topics of relevance to Utahns.

Back To School: Washington County Is First District To Start School In Utah

Photo of students wearing mask in a classroom.
Courtesy Washington County School District
Washington County students are required to wear masks in classrooms, which teachers have tried to arrange to comply with social distancing. Thursday was their first day back to school.

Students in Washington County returned to school Thursday, making them the first to go back in Utah since buildings closed in mid-March.

It looks different this year due to COVID-19. Face coverings are required in all schools and on buses, except for at lunch and recess.

Outside Bloomington Hills Elementary in St. George teachers greeted students at their doors, parents took pictures of their kids — and mostly everyone wore face coverings. 

Jerica Allen dropped her second grader off and she has a kindergartener who starts there next week. She said she felt a little overwhelmed heading into the school year. 

“But I feel like I don’t need to stress about it because I can’t control the virus, so why stress?” Allen said. “Just let them live and make it exciting, like not have that negative dark cloud over it.” 

The new policies and sanitizing procedures didn’t faze Angel Le. She started first grade and her mom said she went to bed early and woke up on her own because she was so ready to go back. 

“I’m really excited because I’m going to learn new things and I’m going to work harder [than I did] in kindergarten,” the first grader said.

At nearby Crimson Cliffs High School, Jacy Lind, a junior, met up with her friends before going to their first class. But she wondered what social interactions will look like now.

“Everyone doesn’t know if they should go up and hug someone or to be like hey wait, six feet apart,” Lind said.

Students can choose to go to school in-person, online or a mix of the two. District spokesperson Steven Dunham said they anticipate over 90% of students will be in the building. 

“Our goal is to create as safe an environment as we can where we can maintain open schools as long as we can,” Dunham said. “We’re going to enforce the mask mandate from the governor. We know that’s going to help us keep schools open longer, hopefully all year — knock on wood.”

Lexi Peery is a Report for America corps member who reports from KUER's Southwest Bureau in St. George. Follow Lexi on Twitter @LexiFP

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