The Utah Education Association supports following the recommendations of medical professionals and local health departments in addressing COVID in our communities and in our public schools, including the call by the Salt Lake County and Summit County Health Departments to require masks in public buildings.
Utah schools are facing a crisis. In many areas of the state, significant numbers of school staff – including teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and others – are ill, without substitutes for their positions.
Several school districts have elected to close for a few days to allow for the number of cases in their schools to decline. We appreciate Governor Cox, legislative leadership and Superintendent Dickson approving a temporary remote learning exemption to allow this option for school districts. The “close-to-stay-open” strategy only works, however, if the entire community is committed to reducing the number of COVID cases by following the recommendations of our health experts.
The workload and responsibilities currently heaped on educators is staggering. These dedicated individuals struggle to meet the learning needs of students as well as attend to personal and family health situations. In addition to following health directives, we must support our educators by providing appropriate sick-leave policies and paid leave time. We must also give them the peace of mind knowing their students will be well cared for in their absence by qualified substitute employees.
We all want what is best for our students to learn and thrive, which right now, absolutely depends on our schools being safe and remaining open for in-person learning. The best way to address these issues is to slow the spread of the virus in our communities by following the recommendations given by the medical experts at the state and county health departments.