The public must also follow health guidelines to keep schools open
As Utah faces an alarming spike in the number of COVID-19 cases and school districts are electing to ignore recommendations established by the Utah Department of Health, the Utah Education Association calls on Governor Gary Herbert, the Utah State Board of Education, local school district boards and the public at large to increase efforts to keep our schools open, our students learning and our communities safe.
In a letter sent Sept. 18, the Utah Education Association urged Governor Gary Herbert to “increase state oversight and compliance measures to protect the health and safety of public school students, educators and school staff.”
“In many cases, teachers reported to work believing (Utah Health Department) guidelines would be followed,” the letter to Gov. Herbert stated. “We are hearing from many teachers who say they feel helpless, disrespected and unsafe. We call on you to protect students, educators and school staff by establishing clear, enforceable requirements based on guidance from health professionals.”
In addition, the UEA called on the Utah State Board of Education to “establish stronger requirements for local boards of education.” A UEA letter to state school board members on Sept. 18 goes on to say, “The State Board of Education, working together with the governor and the State Department of Health, must protect educators, staff and students by taking stronger action to establish clear health requirements for local boards of education. School districts can then work with local health departments to implement these requirements.”
The UEA also calls on local school boards to immediately address the additional work requirements placed on teachers. UEA President Heidi Matthews said, “Teachers in many school districts are telling us they feel overworked and overwhelmed with all the demands of both in-person and online learning. Local school boards must critically review the demands placed on teachers, listen to their concerns and work with them to create solutions.”
Finally, the UEA calls on the public at large to help keep schools open by following the guidance of health officials. In a Sept. 17 press conference, Utah Department of Health epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said, “Where we are seeing spikes in the community, we are also seeing spikes in the schools. They go together. In order for us to keep the schools open safely for the rest of the school year, we really need to have everyone wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing, getting tested and practicing quarantine and insolation if public health asks you to do so.”
“We know that in-person teaching and learning is best for both students and educators, and educators want nothing more than to be in schools with our students,” said Matthews. “Health concerns and workload demands are forcing good teachers to reconsider their chosen profession, putting student learning at risk. Until all of us – the Governor, the State Board of Education, local school boards and the general public – come together and do our part, we risk losing the ground we’ve gained in re-opening our schools and providing our students with the quality education they deserve.”