UEA Calls on the Governor and School Boards to Shift Secondary Schools to At-Home Learning in High COVID Transmission Areas
Students learn best face-to-face with a qualified teacher in a well-resourced classroom. We must work toward this ideal, however, continuing in-person learning amid record numbers of COVID-19 infection rates poses an unacceptable level of risk for our students, our educators and our communities.
Current strategies to address COVID-19 in Utah are clearly not working. We are now seeing multiple schools repeatedly shift back and forth from in-person to at-home learning due to outbreaks. This cycle is obviously not helping to control the virus spread and, as educators, we can unequivocally state the continual interruptions are not in the best interest of student learning.
The Utah Education Association calls on the governor to require all public secondary schools in communities of high COVID transmission to adopt at-home instruction and to suspend all extracurricular activities that cannot be conducted under social distancing guidelines. This change should take place, at a minimum, from the Thanksgiving holiday through Winter Break or until such time as COVID-19 cases significantly decline.
We believe the Governor, in coordination with the Utah Department of Health, has this authority. If the Governor remains reluctant, we call on local school boards to assume this leadership responsibility.
Additionally, the pandemic has not been experienced equally by all communities and populations, particularly in rural areas and communities of color. As school districts temporarily focus on at-home learning, they must consider ways to deliver equal learning opportunities to help close gaps exacerbated by the disparate impacts of school changes.
The juggling of multiple and continually changing teaching modalities, combined with the stress of a school environment that puts personal and family health at risk, has created an untenable situation for our Utah educators. Immediate action is required to not only address the pandemic, but also to stave off what we fear will be a wave of teachers choosing to leave the profession due to increasingly unacceptable working conditions.