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Utah legislature to hold hearings on school re-opening plans

SkyFox Capitol
Posted at 2:39 PM, Jul 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-28 16:39:06-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Following a call by the state's largest teacher's union to delay the start of in-person classroom learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Utah State Legislature plans to hold hearings on classroom safety.

The Utah Education Association on Tuesday called for state leaders to delay to the start of in-classroom learning because of a rising number of COVID-19 cases. In an interview with FOX 13, UEA President Heidi Matthews did not rule out the potential of a strike or some type of "job action" by teachers.

The UEA is arguably the most powerful union in the state and has negotiated increased education funding. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the union has raised concerns about student and teacher safety.

It appeared to have gotten the attention of the chairs of the legislature's Interim Education Committee.

"If the schools are going to open, we want this to work in a safe and proper way," Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, told FOX 13 on Tuesday.

Rep. Snow said he spoke with his co-chair on the committee, Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, who also supported a hearing.

"We both feel strongly that this is the most important issue that we address in that interim, in terms of getting a report from the state school board, the State Office of Education, from the leadership of the superintendent’s association and also we’ll hear from the UEA," Rep. Snow said.

Gov. Herbert said he wants schools to resume next month, which has received mixed reviews from the public. Some support students getting back into a classroom with proper safety protocols, while others feel it is too dangerous. The governor said he wanted all local school districts to present safety plans to the state by Aug. 1 outlining how they will manage re-opening.

Those reports have trickled in within recent days. The legislature, which funds education and sets policy for the state, can have a say in how some of those plans get implemented.

"We intend to hear what is their plans for protecting the students and teachers and what additional resources that they need," Rep. Snow said.