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Coronavirus and the UEA

To comply with health directives, UEA staff will be working remotely until further notice. The UEA Building in Murray is closed but UEA staff are still available to meet the needs of our members. If you need assistance, please contact a member of our staff directly or call 801-266-4461 and leave a message. Someone will get back to you as quickly as possible.

Updates will be posted on this site as they are available.

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Most Recent Information—

UEA shares concerns about school quarantine guidance changes – December 17, 2020

UEA President Heidi Matthews issued the following statement in response to changes in school quarantine guidance announced by Governor Herbert on December 17:

“We are disappointed the governor and health officials have elected to ease school quarantine and contact tracing guidelines in the midst of growing community COVID-19 cases and deaths. If school districts adopt these recommendations, it places educators at added risk and adds to the anxiety and stress our school employees already face.

“In meetings with representatives from the governor’s office and again in a letter to Governor Herbert dated Dec. 7, the UEA raised the following concerns:

  1. The impact of the proposed changes on school safety is unknown,
  2. There does not appear to be data supporting the change, and
  3. A change to quarantine guidelines that appears to decrease the safety of those in schools will increase the anxiety of already-stressed educators, as well as potentially increase the number of school employees at risk of COVID-19 infection.

“It is important to remember these changes to the Utah COVID-19 School Manual are just recommendations. We encourage local district school boards to consult with educators and health officials to enact local quarantine practices that address educator concerns and keep our communities safe.”

PRESS RELEASE: UEA praises school employee vaccine prioritization – December 10, 2020

The following can be attributed to Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews in response to today’s announcement that public school educators will be prioritized in phase one of Utah’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan.

“The Utah Education Association expresses appreciation to Governor Gary Herbert and the Utah Department of Health for prioritizing public school educators in the state’s proposed COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan. Teachers and school staff risk their health each day by being in school face-to-face with students. It is critical those dedicated public school employees who elect to receive the vaccine, many of whom are at-risk themselves, have convenient access as soon as feasibly possible. 

“We also appreciate Gov. Herbert for continually reaching out and including the Utah Education Association in decisions about addressing the pandemic in our schools. The entire community benefits when decisions are made based on clear data and with input from those directly impacted.”

UEA Survey: Members ‘overwhelmed’ and ‘stressed’ – December 9, 2020

UEA membership is evenly divided on how to deal with the Coronavirus. The number who say they want to temporarily close all schools statewide equals the number who want to “support the work of local associations…and not focus on statewide solutions.” The non-scientific survey was emailed to all UEA members in November. The survey also showed interest in a job action is low statewide, particularly in rural school districts. Asked which words best described their feelings, “Overwhelmed” (43.4%) and “Stressed” (21.3%) topped the list.

Addressing COVID-19 in our schools…charting the best course - Message from UEA President Heidi Matthews – November 13, 2020

How I admire our Utah educators. Your devotion to your students, to your craft and to the great institution that is universal public education, no matter the situation, continually amazes me. Thank you for all you do!

Not in our lifetimes has anyone faced this before. Rapid spread of COVID-19 in our community is impacting far too many schools. Restrictions, quarantines and changing teaching modalities are hampering our ability to teach effectively.

As you know, the UEA exists to support ALL our educator members. Typically, the task of defending educators is relatively straight forward. But in the current environment, I’ve watched as your elected UEA leaders agonize over how best to advocate for you. The jobs of educators, it seems, have never been more complicated. And the feelings of UEA members on how best to address the situation run the gamut.

PRESS RELEASE: UEA Demands ‘Clear, Enforceable Requirements' for schools – September 19, 2020

As Utah faces an alarming spike in the number of COVID-19 cases and school districts are electing to ignore recommendations established by the Utah Department of Health, the Utah Education Association calls on Governor Gary Herbert, the Utah State Board of Education, local school district boards and the public at large to increase efforts to keep our schools open, our students learning and our communities safe.

In a letter sent Sept. 18, the UEA urged Gov. Herbert to “increase state oversight and compliance measures to protect the health and safety of public school students, educators and school staff.”

In addition, the UEA called on the Utah State Board of Education to “establish stronger requirements for local boards of education.” A UEA letter to state school board members on Sept. 18 goes on to say, "The State Board of Education, working together with the governor and the State Department of Health, must protect educators, staff and students by taking stronger action to establish clear health requirements for local boards of education. School districts can then work with local health departments to implement these requirements."

UEA creates COVID-19 School Issue Reporting Form to identify and track concerns – August 26, 2020

Plans created by school districts to address the Coronavirus pandemic vary widely. Many teachers are comfortable with their school district’s reopening plans. Many others have grave concerns…some for health reasons, others about unreasonable workload demands and still others about their personal rights and benefits should they or someone else in the school become ill with COVID-19.

UEA members, we need your help! You are the eyes and ears. Now that schools are back in session, we need data in order to properly address deficiencies with state and local officials, including local school boards, the State Board of Education, the legislature and the governor. Help us identify and address the issues and locations where concerns remain.

UEA president addresses Legislature on safe return to school – August 19, 2020

UEA President Heidi Matthews presented to the legislative Education Interim Committee August 19 to address school reopening concerns during Covid-19. She presented UEA’s 5 Key Requirements for a Safe Return to In-Person Learning, highlighting significant gaps that exist in state requirements for district back to school plans and noting the concerns of many teachers about the lack of accountability and oversight for the implementation of safety plans.

Specifically, she asked the state to address three essential steps: 

  1. Standards for health and safety (addresses UEA Requirement #1)
    - State Department of Health must set health standards based on medical science and public health data for the conditions in which schools can safely open for in-person learning
    - State or Local Department of Health must ensure LEA reopening plans meet health and safety requirements. 
  2. Increase state funding for employee costs related to Covid-19 (addresses UEA Requirement #3)
    - LEAs provide additional paid sick leave so employees do not report to work when they are symptomatic or have been exposed to Covid-19
    - Guarantee LEA health insurance plan, many of which are high deductible, cover out of pocket costs for medical expenses related to Covid-19 treatment
    - Reimburse educators for documented out of pocket expenses related to technology to provide online instruction (e.g., purchasing a camera for home computer)
  3. Enforcement and compliance (addresses UEA Requirement #5)
    - Utah Occupational Safety and Health Division set Covid-19 workplace safety standards.
    - Require LEAs to create a process for receiving and reviewing complaints from students, staff and parents when the school safety plan is not enforced and ensure no one is retaliated against for doing do.
    - Local Department of Health ensures workplace safety and compliance through regular school inspections.

Concerning elements of School COVID-19 Guidance revised with UEA urging – August 3, 2020

On July 30, the Utah Health Department released COVID-19 School Guidance (pdf). The document caused angst among educators by recommending ‘modified quarantine guidelines’ (pg. 41) that simultaneously required quarantine for anyone exposed to COVID-19 but made exception for teachers or school employees for whom the school is unable to secure a suitable substitute.

Following pressure from the UEA, the Utah State Board of Education and the Governor's Office, the Utah Department of Health revised the guidelines. The guidance was changed to read as follows: “In the event of a confirmed case in a school setting: A. Students, teachers, and staff who were wearing a mask and were able to physical distance are not considered exposed; B. Students, teachers, and staff who were not able to physical distance will be considered exposed and will be required to be quarantined."

"While we appreciate the health and science expertise involved in creating the guidance, it’s clear the manual received little or no input from professional public school educators," said UEA President Heidi Matthews. "Many of the guidelines run from impractical to impossible in a K-12 school setting. We appreciate the State Health Department revising these guidelines with input from public school educators."

UEA announces five key requirements for a safe return to in-person learning – July 31, 2020

The UEA is demanding that each school district reopening plan meet a minimum standard in the areas of health and safety, employee rights, continuous learning and consistent policy enforcement before returning to in-person learning. The five minimum standards are:

  1. The Covid-19 pandemic must be under control locally. 
  2. Specific protections must be in place to keep the virus under control and protect students and staff.  
  3. Plans must be in place to protect school employee rights.
  4. Plans must be in place to ensure continuous learning for all students.
  5. Clear policies must be established for how these measures will be enforced consistently.
- View the complete UEA Five Key Requirements for a Safe Return to In-person Learning

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