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Park City School District reopening plan protested by parents

(Parents protesting outside the Park City School District offices. Credit: Paul Nelson)

PARK CITY – The Park City School District is facing a lot of heat over its reopening plan.  Some parents held a protest, claiming the district’s strategy doesn’t properly protect teachers.

Dozens of people came to the Park City School District Headquarters before Wednesday’s board meeting.  Some held signs saying things like “Teachers Are Not Disposable” and “Prioritize Safety.”  One woman, Donna Matturro McAleer, has a student going into their junior year at Park City High School.  She believes the district and the school board aren’t listening to the concerns of the teachers.

She says, “It’s great to say that you’re going to social distance students in class, but it’s next to impossible to do that in a classroom that’s a fixed-square size and with 30 students.”

The lack of space is one of the reasons history teacher Kevin Fober resigned at the beginning of the year. 

He says, “I would have 30 kids in a class.  The desks can’t be spaced six feet apart.”

Fober says students and parents were given the option of using remote learning if they felt it wouldn’t be safe inside the school, but teachers weren’t really given that same choice.  The district allows teachers to speak with their HR department to discuss any medical concerns they might have, and Fober says his age would put him in the “at-risk” category.  In the end, he just didn’t believe his working conditions would be safe enough.

“I still have a lot of fire in the belly.  I still want to do this, but the conditions that I was asked to work I felt were unsafe and untenable,” Fober says.

However, district officials say they’re working as hard as they can to ensure teacher safety.  Chief Education Officer, Dr. Amy Hunt, says any teacher who feels they’re at risk can ask to use strictly remote learning, but they want to use all other protective methods, first.

Hunt says some teachers have asked to be online only, however, “At this time, there hasn’t been anything that couldn’t be mitigated in ways that we are doing, here.”

The district’s eventual goal is to bring every student back into the classroom, and as long as students want in-person learning, Hunt says teachers need to be present.

“At that time, our teachers would be there and be available to teach our students,” she says.

Hunt says they considered a hybrid method that would allow students to check-in and out of school, but they determined it wouldn’t allow the district to properly supervise the students in their care.  She also says the district is considering other teaching methods just in case a surge in COVID-19 cases becomes too severe.