Diana Bell can barely believe it’s come to this.

“I loved my job. I didn’t want to leave my job,” she said. “I’ve lost a lot of sleep over this.”

Formerly a sixth grade English teacher at Bonneville Junior High, Bell quit last week over concerns about the Granite School District’s re-opening plan.

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Caption: KUTV: Kyle Harvey reports{{ }}

Secondary schools will be open to all students wanting a classroom education four days week. Fridays will be set aside for teachers to plan and work with students in the online program.

Middle school teachers are required to do both online and in-person instruction, so Bell couldn’t have requested a virtual assignment. Some of her class rosters topped 40 students.

“I held out until the last minute, and it became clear that Granite was not going to change, and so I needed to change,” Bell said.

Her holdout cost her $1,000.

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A standard line in most teacher contracts, Bell has to pay the sum as a penalty for leaving the district so close to the start of school.

I’m sorry, I’m really sorry,” she said. “I wish I could’ve been there, but I felt like the board didn’t do its job to keep me safe, and so I could not continue.”

The Alpine, Jordan, Weber, Ogden and Davis districts have all said they’ve dropped the fines because of the unusual circumstances this year. Granite will not.

Spokesman Ben Horsley said the district published a general plan about the fall semester July 7 and gave contracted teachers six days to opt out for free. They gave them an additional two weeks to apply for an unpaid leave of absence.

“The plans that we published July 7 outlined three different types of schedules, and we have made it very clear that we will adjust to those schedules based on health department guidance,” he said, noting teachers who leave now put the district in a bind as it tries to fill classrooms last minute.

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That wasn’t good enough for Bell to make a decision.

And with local districts and the state board of education flip-flopping throughout the summer on a variety of issues, she felt strongly that Granite would change its mind about letting everyone back at once.

I wrote letters and emails and attended rallies and really thought if we got the information out there then the district might change,” Bell said.

Teachers demonstrated and spoke out repeatedly, believing the board would make changes — as other districts did — at an Aug. 4 meeting.

They did not.

“I watched the board meeting online — all four hours of it — and there was just no indication that they were listening to teachers at all,” Bell said.

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Horsely said that was never in the cards August 4.

“The Aug. 4 agenda was pretty clear,” he said. “We didn’t stray from that agenda. We cannot legally do so without making notice.”

Bell was just hired by the Salt Lake City School District to be a school librarian. The district won’t start school until September and will be entirely virtual until at least the end of October. Bell will pay the $1,000 for the opportunity.

I’m not happy about paying it, but to keep myself safe and to keep my family safe, that’s the price that I have to pay,” she said.

The district negotiates teacher contracts with the Granite Education Association. Horsely said the association never voiced any concern with the fines.

“If that had been presented to us, it certainly would’ve been something we would’ve taken into consideration,” he said.

But GEA President Michael McDonough begs to differ, telling 2News they reached out multiple times about having fines waived and were told “no” each time.

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A smaller number of teachers in the Granite district are represented by the American Federation of Teachers.

Union representative Brad Asay also urged the district to void fines.

$1,000 is a lot of money,” he said. “I would think that the district could make an exception in the face of a pandemic.”



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