SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — To mitigate out-of-pocket spending and show appreciation for educators, the Jordan School District is offering in-classroom teachers $500 to spend on classroom safety.
Back-to-school is only a week away for the district. This year, the district joins educators across the nation in addressing an unusual set of challenges brought on by COVID-19.
“We’re all about to find out what’s going to happen when school starts next week in this valley,” said Bryce Dunford, President of the Jordan School District Board of Education.
Like all districts in the state, JSD is receiving a variety of personal protective equipment from the Utah State Board of Education. Still, Dunford said this week, the board was told a number of teachers are spending their own money to equip their classrooms with items that make them feel safer.
In response to the out-of-pocket spending, the board approved a new stipend for schools and teachers, providing a little monetary relief.
“We recognize that [teachers] have a tough assignment right now with the pandemic,” said Dunford.
Effective immediately, every in-classroom teacher has the option to spend up to $500 on anything they believe will make them feel safer in their classroom – such as plexiglass separators for desks, or air filters.
Each school in the district will also receive an additional $10 for every registered in-classroom student.
“We just feel like the best people to decide what is need in a classroom is that particular teacher,” Dunford said. “This is our attempt to say we are doing everything we can to put protective equipment in your possession.”
If all of the allocated funds are spent, the total amount spent is estimated at $1.5 million.
Dunford said the money is coming from the district’s ‘CARES’ funding, as well as some ‘CARES’ funding that was allocated to them by Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson. If those sources do not cover the total cost, the district will dip into their capital reserve funding.
“We may have to use money that we would normally spend on a renovation for a school,” Dunford said of the reserve. “We are a growing district and desperately need property.”
The amount may seem high, but the district believes it is a small price to pay for teachers' piece-of-mind and school safety.
“There’s always going to be a trade-off, so we hope that this shows that we really do stand behind teachers, and that them feeling safe in the classroom is a high priority,” said Dunford.
JSD said the money will be made available immediately. Teachers can either buy the items and be reimbursed by their individual schools, or they may order the items they want directly through their schools.