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Utah Education Association Calls For In-Person Classes To Be Delayed

Jul 28, 2020, 12:33 PM | Updated: Jul 30, 2020, 2:45 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Education Association is calling on state leaders to delay the return to classrooms in areas impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, the association asked Gov. Gary Herbert, the State Board of Education, and local school districts in those areas with rising COVID-19 numbers to temporarily resume distance learning for the beginning of the school year. Buildings should remain closed until coronavirus numbers decline and districts have reopening plans that include input from educators and have been carefully reviewed by approved local health authorities, according to the UEA.

“Up until now, Utah has faced a choice between two bad options — either return to in-person learning and put our students, educators and communities at risk or temporarily return to a distance learning and virtual instruction model,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews. “Given the state’s rising number of positive coronavirus cases, this is no longer a choice. We simply cannot unnecessarily risk lives by opening schools too soon.”

Matthews noted that in-person learning is the most ideal situation for both students and teachers, but current school district plans can’t ensure the health and safety of those students and educators and their families.

“Let’s take this time to reopen right. We cannot afford to do this the wrong way. It’s not that people will be hurt or we’ll miss out on some learning – people will die,” she told KSL.

The association listed calls to action for the governor, Utah lawmakers and the board of education:

“We call on local school boards to lead by seeking educator input in creating back-to-school plans. Educators have extensive expertise in teaching and supporting students and they must be front and center by fully participating in decision-making and implementation. These plans must also address employee rights and working conditions.

“We call on the State Board of Education to lead by continuing efforts to ensure equity. We recognize the pandemic is not experienced equally by all communities and populations, particularly in rural areas and communities of color. The board must require school district reopening plans that deliver equal learning opportunities.

“We call on the Utah legislature to lead with the additional resources required to open schools safely and to bridge the socio-economic digital divide. Students and educators will face health and safety concerns in schools if they are not provided with proper personal protective equipment, disinfectants, training and other safety measures. Students without access to digital resources, proper supervision and nutrition will fall behind in a remote learning environment. Utah schools, which are already underfunded, should not be faced with the decision of how to pay for these essentials.

“Finally, we call on Gov. Gary Herbert to lead with science and safety and declare that schools in impacted areas will open remotely this fall. We call on him to declare that local school districts should NOT return to in-person learning until COVID-19 cases decline and they have robust reopening plans created with input from educators and carefully reviewed and approved by local health authorities.”

Tuesday’s statement also listed four guiding principles in planning for a return to in-person learning:

Principle 1 – Health Expertise. All decisions to reopen schools must be based in scientific evidence and advice.

Principle 2 – Educator Voice. Educators must be front and center by fully participating in decision-making and implementation.

Principle 3 – Access to Protection and Training. Students and educators must have access to proper personal protective equipment and training on appropriate hygiene practices and protocols before returning to school. Utah schools, which are already underfunded, should not be faced with the decision of how to pay for this equipment and training.

Principle 4 – Leading with Equity. The pandemic was not experienced equally by all communities and populations, particularly in rural areas and communities of color. Funding and resources must be allocated to help close opportunity gaps exacerbated by the disparate impacts of school closures.

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Utah Education Association Calls For In-Person Classes To Be Delayed