Follow this link to the Granite School District website for access to the meeting online: https://www.graniteschools.org/bulletin/july-14-board-of-education-meeting/
If you have not contacted your school board member or Dr. Bates regarding your concerns, please do so before 5pm TODAY!
Dear President Winder and Dr. Bates,
GEA is writing today to express concerns with the plans the district board and administration are making for the upcoming 2020-21 school year. While we have been meeting with you and discussing educator concerns throughout the summer, we feel obligated to outline some of the pressing issues GEA members are bringing to our attention.
The current plan to begin the year, August 24, with all students attending full-time, five days a week is aggravating any safety measures that might be in place. Having 30+ students in a classroom with a lack of ventilation, air circulation, space to distance, etc. has teachers fearful of their health and safety. Some of the concerns they have are as follows:
- How will appropriate social distancing be managed in a classroom with 30+ students? Even with desks facing forward, there is not enough space in our classrooms to manage three feet of distance let alone the health department’s recommendation of six feet.
- The teacher’s responsibility for sanitation frequently throughout the day will cut into instructional time and require adequate supplies. Teachers are being asked to clean all materials shared by students, and everything touched communally and individually each time the room is cleared. The time to do this critical cleaning is not available in the day. Pre-COVID, most days teachers are not able to take a full duty-free lunch due to time crunch. With this added cleaning expectation, a teacher’s time is even more reduced. The side effect will be to minimize or eliminate the use of math manipulatives, a shared classroom library, bean bag chairs or other student stations for time-out, and other physical teaching tools etc.
- The observation/evaluation tool as it currently stands is not feasible. Teachers should not be evaluated on proximity, small group instruction, timely parent communication, individual instruction, timed instruction etc. as they will not be able to safely do what they would normally do in a day during instructional periods. Transitions will require more cleaning and attention, which will cut into instruction time throughout the day.
- The district is underestimating the required workload they are asking teachers to perform. When school was dismissed in the spring, teachers reported working more hours than normal with online instruction. The time intensity of contacting students individually, responding to the increase in parent emails, and creating adequate and interesting online lessons was overwhelming, but they met the challenge at the detriment of their own personal time and mental and physical health. To ask that they now teach full-time during the day in tandem with adequate and equal online instruction is not feasible. Even with district prepared lessons, there is not enough time in the day for a teacher to manage both under the current circumstances.
- The shortage for substitute teachers is a concern. We will, undoubtedly, have teachers out for illness and/or quarantine regularly and the need for substitutes will be greater than before. To require a teacher to take an additional 10 students into their room due to a colleague’s absence is not feasible nor is it safe.
According to the basic CDC guidelines for reopening schools: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/Schools-Decision-Tree.pdf we believe the district is not prepared or able to meet the first guidelines of maintaining safety by addressing how students and staff will be monitored prior to entering a school building, and where they will be held if they show a fever or any of the symptoms related to COVID-19. We know that parents will send their students to school with a dose of medication and a hope that they can get through the day even while being ill. What is the plan to ensure these students are not intermingling with the population at large? Also, the district has not addressed high-risk personnel in the teaching staff. At least a third of our teachers are at high-risk and while they are able and willing to work from home, they are being told this is not an option. There needs to be a remedy for their continued service other than leaving the district. The Utah State Board of Education lists the following requirements to LEAs when planning for reopening:
- Create a process for students/families and staff to identify as high risk for severe illness due to COVID-19 and have a plan in place to address requests for alternative learning arrangements, remote learning or instruction, or work re-assignments.
- Take reasonable steps to minimize and mitigate risk for employees who identify as high-risk.
GEA believes this calls for more consideration of teachers who are high-risk to work online or be re-assigned during this time when COVID-19 cases are escalating in the state. Suggesting that these career teachers choose between their long careers at Granite or their health or life is not meeting the basic requirements the state outlines. We cannot afford to lose our most experienced teachers due to the lack of options for online teaching.
GEA is asking the district board and administration to consider these basic needs:
- Every teacher should have a N95 mask and face shield before school begins
- Student desks should have plexiglass surrounds to increase safety and aerosol migrations if/when students take off their masks.
- Adequate cleaning supplies must be available. This means at least one container of Clorox wipes per day for a classroom.
- New masks for students daily as the reuse of masks is not recommended by the health department.
- A hybrid option of attendance so that students are scheduled in four sections per week, to resolve the issue of physical distancing and control of environment.
- Additional daily preparation time during contract hours to meet the needs of online students.
- Readjustment on observation and evaluation expectations in consideration of the challenges with proximity, small group instruction and/or individual instruction or testing of students in small groups.
- Opportunities for high-risk teachers to continue distance learning from home or in a private classroom to avoid exposure, illness, and/or death.
- Principals need to maintain required mask-wearing and physical distancing of staff and students. There should not be group meetings where teachers are hugging, sitting less than six feet apart, not wearing masks (unless doctor ordered), or putting others at risk. They need to lead by example and by management.
Michael McDonough, GEA President