SALT LAKE CITY — Just days before some kids in Utah go back to school, teachers are resigning in record numbers over safety concerns.
Cathy Gray, a sixth-grade teacher in Salt Lake County, is also one of those teachers.
She will be fined because of late resignation, but she says leaving the classroom was necessary to keep her and her students safe.
“I worked really, really hard to get here, because this is my dream that had to be postponed for a few decades,” Gray said. “Walking away from this profession is the hardest thing I have ever done.”
Like many other teachers, she is leaving a job she loves because of COVID-19.
“I would not do it if I did not think it was in the best interest of kids and schools in general,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to keep kids safe at the level that their parents were expecting me to based on the plans that were put out.”
Teachers like Gray are being fined $1,000 by their district if they resigned after a certain date.
“I did expect them to waive it under this current situation,” she said.
According to a report from The Salt Lake Tribune, 79 teachers have resigned in Salt Lake County — at least 16 within the last week.
Granite School District has the most resignations at 32. Teachers in the district who resigned after the deadline are being fined.
“Teachers had almost a week or up to three to opt out of the school year without penalty. We are committed as a school district to provide the safest environment for our students and employees,” the district wrote in a statement.
Other districts have also seen resignations, but the Salt Lake City School District has none. They will be start the school year entirely online, but will remain flexible and ready to transition back to in-person classes when COVID-19 numbers drop.
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“We would never walk out on a class unless it was absolutely imperative to the health of ourselves or our students,” Gray said.
Teachers like Gray aren’t only seeing resignations in the Salt Lake area.
“I am a member of some grassroots organizations for my district, my state and the country. What I am seeing is that it’s utter chaos right now,” she said.
As the school year approaches, she is encouraging her fellow educators to stand up for themselves.
“Make sure your administrators totally understand that you want to be 100 percent safe. This is not the time to be polite — this is the time to stand up and say, ‘This is unsafe, and I should not be in an unsafe situation.’”