As Governor Gary Herbert moved Utah from a COVID-19 Red status to “Orange” many are wondering what “Open for Business” means for public schools. The last order from state government, county health departments, and Granite School District, is that schools would not open physically for the remainder of this school year. With the last day of teaching new instructional material being the week of May 11, and student Chromebook returns scheduled for the following week, this year is pretty much one for the records. However, the state superintendent, Dr. Sydnee Dickson recently sent a letter to local district superintendents outlining what the “orange” status means for public schools. In her letter, she reports having coordinated with the state health department to authorize having “a few students” in school buildings with safety protocols. The reasons Dr. Dickson outlines for students entering school buildings is purported to be for such things as:
At the same time, on May 6th Governor Herbert released the state’s guidelines for the moderate risk (Orange) phase which advises that children do not go to school, but remain learning at home, should not schedule playdates with other children, and closures of all playgrounds are still in effect. Given all this, what does this mean for Granite teachers? The District superintendent and his cabinet of assistant superintendents are reviewing the advice from Dr. Dickson while maintaining caution such as what is outlined from the governor and state health department and will decide how this affects teachers and staff in Granite. GEA has coordinated with the Special Education department administration and they are recommending continued conservative protocols for health and safety reasons. With a backlog of SPED students needing to be evaluated and tested, administration is recommending voluntary participation of teachers, social workers, psychologists, etc. to take on some of the testing one-on-one under strict health protocols and in coordination and agreement with parents. Again, this testing would be done voluntarily and will not be directive at this time. Granite literally has 2.5 weeks of school left on the 2019-20 calendar and its unlikely that a focus will be made to increase physical presence in our school buildings.
Focus in the District right now is on finalizing this year’s student grading, return of Chromebooks, and arranging for continued summer catch-up for students who are facing incompletes. We are also seeing proactive movement to clearing classrooms in schools slated for closure, repair, and reconfiguration. Questions have come up from teachers who are receiving proposed plans from principals on how the collection of Chromebooks and dissemination of students’ personal belongings should be staged. The District protocol recommends that beginning the week of May 18, principals should be scheduling a system for parents to drive-up to the school to drop-off Chromebooks. This curbside process should be in line with the same protocols already set up for lunch distribution. Teachers who are not in high-risk categories or feel safe coming into the school on a staggered schedule will receive bags from administration in which to place individual student’s personal items. Bags will be sealed and labeled with the student’s name. This should happen through the week of May 11-15 with support of school custodians, aides, and administration. Then, during the week of May 18-21st, as mentioned above, a system, similar to lunch distribution, will be arranged. Teachers may volunteer to help with the personal property distribution and collection of school Chromebooks but are not required to be there if health and safety is an issue. GEA believes teachers should not be expected to be at the school, meet separately or one-on-one with students and/or parents during this school closure/exchange.
GEA is also hearing from teachers who fall within the high-risk category for reasons of age or compromised health; in fact, 1/3 of GEA members fall within this category. GEA AdvoCats and Leadership have been in continued conversation with District administration to ensure protection for all teachers, not just our most vulnerable. The District has echoed our concerns and is moving forward with caution as well as communication with us prior to action. This is the respect and relationship GEA has developed over a long history of negotiating and collaborating with the District and its leaders on the school board. Anyone with concerns about rumors they are hearing, directives they’ve been given, or news being reported, should email one of your GEA AdvoCats to discuss and resolve. We got you!
Mike McDonough, GEA President: firstname.lastname@example.org
Star Orullian, GEA Executive Director: Starleen.email@example.com
Cindy Formeller, GEA Assoc. Director: firstname.lastname@example.org