MURRAY, Utah — Utah’s most powerful union is calling on state leaders to postpone the return of students to classrooms this fall.
The Utah Education Association (UEA) wants classes to resume virtually online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We do not want our public schools being super spreaders of the virus,” UEA President Heidi Matthews told FOX 13 News Tuesday.
The UEA asks state leaders to keep school buildings closed until coranavirus numbers decline and districts have reopening plans that include input from educators and local health districts.
“This isn’t something any of us would have liked to be doing. Do we want our kids back in school full-time? Absolutely. But we need to do it in a way that we stay open and we don’t further exacerbate the virus.”
The recommendation to continue virtual learning sparks heated debate among teachers and parents statewide.
“It can definitely be tough on parents but it’s also tough on teachers,” said mother of three in St. George Kisa Smith. We have a lot of these teachers who are in these at-risk populations and we are asking them to go to the front lines and be stuck in small classrooms that are already overcrowded with students. We have to protect them and keep them safe.”
“I love my students and I really care about their education,” said Weber County teacher Michelle Parslow.
As an educator for 26 years, Parslow saw a decline in student achievement with virtual learning and wants to see her students in person this fall.
“For sure I could see a difference in the quality of their learning that was not as high as when I had them in class,” said Parslow.
UEA leadership says they plan to flex their power in on the issue, stopping short of announcing an organized strike.
“We teachers we are problem solvers and we are not about going about this problem saying no. we are going to say, here are the perimeters let’s work together and get this done,” Matthews said.
In a statement to FOX13, Governor Gary Herbert’s office wrote:
“Ensuring the safest possible environment is crucial to helping our teachers and student successfully return to classroom learning. We must strike a careful balance, and as anxious as we are to get students back to school, we must be cautious about how and went to do so. The advice of both medical experts and our teachers will be vital in adjusting and finalizing these plans.”