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‘Broken Trust’: UEA says school districts break promises by not enforcing COVID-19 quarantines

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah’s largest teachers’ union says school districts are breaking their promises to educators.  The Utah Education Association said districts are putting teachers at risk by not following state guidelines about COVID-19 quarantines.

Students and parents at Corner Canyon High School are rallying around teacher Charri Jensen.  The Deseret News reports she was diagnosed with COVID-19 Sept. 10 and is now on a ventilator, fighting for her life.

Her daughter, Talesha Jensen posted a message on Facebook, saying:

“I haven’t stopped crying. I just, I pray with everything inside of me that she’s going to pull through. I don’t care if you’re not religious. I don’t care if, whatever, like just pray. We just need her. Corner Canyon needs her. I need her.”

Two teachers told The Deseret News they know dozens of cases at Corner Canyon. 

Meanwhile, 17 cases have been confirmed at Riverton High School.  However, instead of putting the whole school into quarantine as recommended by the state, Jordan School District board members decided to close the school for two days for deep cleaning.

Districts are not required to follow the state recommendation that a school be put into a two-week quarantine when there are 15 or more positive cases in a 14-day period.  However, officials with the Utah Education Association say teachers were assured the districts would follow the state’s suggestions.

“They were specifically told that, in their plan, the district would follow the Utah Department of Health guidebook,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews.  “It’s a broken trust.”

Matthews said it was specifically the COVID-19 quarantines guideline that convinced many teachers to come back to the classroom.

“Our educators made decisions about coming back to school based on those local plans,” she said. “Especially, some of our high-risk teachers had to weigh that out.”

Matthews said the UEA has been asking for more oversight into district policies regarding teacher safety and COVID-19 prevention, but they didn’t get it.

“Where is the recall when these plans are not followed?” she said. 

According to Matthews, teachers already have to deal with nearly impossible expectations teaching face-to-face, then switching to online learning for students who decided not attend in person.

“We’re a labor organization, and we believe an injustice to one is an injustice to all,” she said. “Right now, we have some significant injustices happening to our educators in the classroom.”