MURRAY – The Utah Education Association tried to figure out its next steps during the pandemic by surveying teachers about working conditions and whether they would support a statewide job action like a “sick out.”
“Our jobs as educators have never been more complicated,” UEA President Heidi Matthews said in the introduction to the survey. “We all want nothing more than to be in school with our students, teaching face-to-face as we know is best for their learning.”
Matthews said some UEA members felt that in-classroom teaching created a health risk, while other teachers reported feeling overwhelmed with the demands of simultaneous in-person and remote teaching.
“Still, others are comfortable with their school’s COVID protocols and strongly object to calls for moving to at-home learning,” Matthews said.
In asking for member teachers to complete the survey, Matthews said that the information would be used to better understand how the UEA can best support teachers.
A teacher provided KSL a screenshot of the first question that asks how the UEA should respond to working conditions and concerns about health safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One option asked if the UEA should “organize a statewide job action (such as a ‘sick out’ or other action that would halt work for a day or more) to urge immediate attention by state leaders to the concerns of educations and schools?”
A UEA spokesperson said that surveys like this are routine and that they are not calling for any specific work stoppage action, but that they are hearing that teachers are overwhelmed.
“There are concerns that maybe we need some kind of action so that teachers’ concerns are heard more,” said Mike Kelley, the UEA’s communications director. “This survey is definitely a step in that direction to make sure that teacher voices are being heard.”
The survey also asked teachers if the UEA should “call for a temporary move to at-home learning for all schools statewide until COVID number decline,” or if just schools with high COVID numbers should shift online temporarily.
“More absolutely needs to be done across the board, but there are some school districts that are really suffering, and we need some action to happen in those areas,” Kelley said. “So we’ll see what we get from the survey and hopefully develop some actions that can help alleviate some of these concerns.”
Other options that teachers could select included whether the UEA should focus on actions from local districts instead of statewide initiatives, and whether it should “urge educators with personal concerns to continue in-school teaching because it’s best for students.”
Kelley said that the survey was getting a lot of responses from teachers, and that it will be available through Sunday.
The survey comes in the aftermath of the UEA’s failed plea to Gov. Gary Herbert to move public secondary schools in areas with high transmission of COVID-19 to at-home instruction through at least Winter Break.
The UEA said that if the governor doesn’t take action to move those secondary schools online, that local school boards should take the action.
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