Every day hundreds of student helpers, teachers, and paraprofessional cycle in and out of special education classes across Utah.
One Alpine School District teacher said this could eventually lead to a super-spreader event.
The teacher, who asked not to be identified out of fear that she would face consequences from the school district, said her special needs classroom, and others like it across the state, are COVID19 time bombs waiting to explode. She said teachers and peer tutors are constantly lifting, cleaning, and assisting her special needs students – kids who have compromised immune systems and won’t always wear their masks.
She said student-volunteers are at risk of giving or getting COVID-19, then spreading it into the larger community.
The teacher added that as many as 25 to 30 students cycle into her classroom every day, then return to class, then home, then to the larger community.
Beyond the Books, KUTV’s investigative education unit began looking into what Alpine and other school districts are doing to specifically address concerns in special education classrooms.
Although every school district does have general COVID-19 safety guidelines for students and teachers, none have enhanced rules for dealing specifically with safety, sanitation, and social distancing regarding special needs populations.
The Utah State Board of Education has issued resources to school districts but none that address special education classes specifically.
Even the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) seem to lack much help for special education teachers.
Although the federal agency does provide some administrative help for school districts, it doesn’t offer any enhanced protocols for keeping special needs kids and teachers safe.
In an email from Alpine Schools, spokesperson Kimberly Bird stated all peer tutors, teachers, and para-professionals are trained on COVID-19 safety and are required to wear masks at all times.
She added that special education teachers also receive personal protective equipment (PPE).
The special education teacher who spoke with 2News said she received two masks, two face shields, some hand sanitizer, disinfectant, and two rags.
She recommended that the district should consider staggering schedules and reducing class sizes to keep everyone in the classroom safe.