Dear Superintendent Bates, Board President Winder, and members of the Granite school board,
I am writing you to plead once again that you prioritize the safety of your staff as well as the students.
GEA just completed a survey of its membership. There were over 1400 responses. A very large majority, over 69%, feel unsafe with the district’s current plan. Over 55%, 792 educators, say “No amount of PPE and cleaning will be enough without the ability to create adequate distance between people in the building,” and only eight percent say they have no concerns with Granite’s current plan for the 2020-21 school year.
This result is not surprising to any of us who have been reading the emails from educators these last few weeks. Educators are afraid. They are pleading. They are waiting for some sign that the district means what it says when it tells educators “we value you.” Based on these survey results, GEA is once again renewing its request that Granite School District change its plan to allow for distancing within our school buildings.
We are asking that teacher concerns about lack of social distancing be taken seriously. We have several recent examples of teacher-training events where the presenters asked participants to engage in close group work, writing on a common poster for example, passing a ball back and forth, or manipulating the same physical items as a team. In normal times such strategies would be admirable efforts to engage participants. In the current climate they are not simply an unnecessary risk; they send the message that the health and safety of the participants are not a priority, and that their concerns are not taken seriously.
Whatever plan the district uses must include adequate social distancing (six feet from another person who is not part of your immediate family). We believe that social distancing is possible in any meeting of adults in the school building. We ask that principals:
And I hope it goes without saying at this point that we expect principals to model and enforce mask-wearing in any room or space which educators and students will congregate. We also expect them to enforce the negotiated agreement, i.e. today, secondary teachers are being told they will need to donate 10 minutes of their duty-free lunch to facilitate student lunch transitions. Please communicate this expectation with all building administrators.
Unfortunately, the efforts made to allow elementary educators the option to teach face-to-face or online has become confusing and difficult, if not near impossible, for many school buildings. Following are significant challenges we are hearing:
Please note that this requested shift in plan is not meant to replace the medical accommodations necessary for some educators to not be face-to-face with students but allow for the ADAAA interactive process to meet the needs of these high-risk individuals.
Educators are afraid for their health and the health of their loved ones. We are said to be essential employees and are the only group of such workers asked to be sequestered in a room with 25+ people for several hours a day, every day. GEA is asking that educators’ fears and concerns be acknowledged and more so, addressed. Telling educators not to worry is not helpful. Providing sanitation materials is not enough. Show us that you take our concerns seriously. Make the difficult decisions necessary to protect all your employees, and students.