FARMINGTON — Brittany Goddard, a second grade teacher at Bountiful Elementary School, held up a sign that read, “We can’t teach from the grave,” outside the Davis School District office building on Friday.
Goddard was one of over 50 people who attended a rally to speak out against the Davis School District Board of Education’s decision Wednesday to proceed with a plan to move elementary schools from a hybrid schedule to a four-day school week starting next Monday.
“Do not state that you care about our health and wellness if you continue to make these decisions,” the Bountiful teacher said in a speech.
As of Monday, the Davis School District had 54 active cases of COVID-19, 11 of which were from elementary schools. Although case numbers are lower among elementary students, teachers at the protest argued that scrapping the hybrid system will cause the virus to spread through elementary schools at the same rate — or higher — as secondary schools.
“I know that there’s a lot of data saying that there’s not the highest infection rate among elementary like there is with the secondary ... but doubling the load of students in our classroom doesn’t change anything for us positively,” said Raul Sanchez, a third grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in Layton.
Sanchez, who arrived as the gathering started, also spoke to the board at its meeting on Wednesday. He called on the board to keep the hybrid schedule in place.
The board voted 7-1 to postpone secondary schools’ transition out of hybrid while continuing with elementary schools’, with President John Robison dissenting. Robison said he wasn’t confident the district was prepared to protect elementary students and teachers in the elementary who are at high risk if they contract COVID-19.
“Leaving there with the decision of elementaries starting on the 28th, it was very disheartening, very disappointing,” Sanchez said. “Not because I’m going to see my students more, because I love my students — every single one of them. But I cannot implement the ‘Big Five’ they keep talking about.”
The “Big Five” is the district’s approach to keeping schools safe and reducing the spread of COVID-19 after reopening. It includes hygiene etiquette, staying home when sick, face covering, physical distancing, and cleaning/disinfecting.
Because of the size of classrooms and large classes, many teachers at the rally echoed the sentiment that they don’t feel it’s possible to stick to these guidelines — especially those regarding social distancing and sanitation.
“With the hybrid schedule, many of us (already) can’t social distance with our students,” said Jennifer Baker, a social studies teacher at Sunset Junior High School and a district steward for the American Federation of Teachers, the union that organized the protest. “With half of what we usually have, the 6 feet they’re supposed to be separated there is a lot better. Double that number, which starts out Monday for elementary schools, and there’s no distancing at all.”
Parents and students at the rally were concerned about elementary schools not being able to stick to safety recommendations after abandoning the hybrid schedule not only for the safety of teachers, but also for themselves.
Among parents who stood outside the district office building in solidarity with teachers was Genevra Prothero, who has a son attending Syracuse High School. Along with four other parents, she started a Facebook group called “Keep hybrid for DSD.” The group now has 1,387 members.
“We did a campaign for emails and phone calls, all out of love for our teachers,” Prothero said. “We didn’t win, because the elementary schools are still going to be going to the (four-day-a-week) plan. My son is in high school, and I feel like he’s safe, but I would be a horrible member of the community if I didn’t fight for, you know, everybody.”
The American Federation of Teachers is organizing another rally on Oct. 6, the date of the Davis school board’s next meeting.