Bill SB107, which was proposed Monday Mar. 1, by Utah Sen. Todd Weiler, was made in hopes to get students back into a physical classroom by August of this year. The bill states that Utah’s schools–K-12 and higher education–would need to make 85% of the classes which were offered in fall 2019 available in-person fall 2021.
Schools will offer ‘in-person’ classes using a “test to stay” program. Students who test negative for COVID-19 will be permitted to attend classes, while students with a positive result will stay home. Schools can also request amenities, including testing supplies and mobile testing units, under this bill. These tests will be conducted every 14 days, according to SB107.
Currently, schools with over 1,500 students are required to shut down if 1% of the school’s population tests positive for the virus. This bill, if passed, would raise that threshold to 2%. Once a school hits the 2% threshold, the “test to stay” program would kick in.
“Every year we have universities come and ask us for millions and hundreds of millions of dollars for buildings,” said Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, during a debate on the measure. “If it’s the desire of the universities to continue to hold only online classes, then let’s question why we are giving them millions of dollars that they’re requesting for more bricks and mortar. So this is a way for us to see that we’re funding classroom space, physical brick and mortar classroom space.” Rep. Gibson stated that the bill would be a way to use tax dollars that were designated to build classroom space on university campuses.
Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Murray, opposed the effort to require a set amount of in-person classes. She worries that a mandated number will decrease options for students who currently rely on online learning.
The Utah House of Representatives passed SB107 with a vote of 50-22. This bill will then be voted on by the Utah Senate. If passed, the bill will be either signed or vetoed by the governor.