Is UEA weekend for work or play?
Every year schools throughout Utah close for the Utah Education Association convention. Is the two-day, non-paid school break a time for teachers to train for tomorrow, or a hedonistic holiday to head for the heat? It depends on who one asks.
Teachers, administrators, parents and students spent the two school-free days of Thursday and Friday, Oct. 12, 13 that led into the weekend as they pleased.
How people spent those days was limited only by their imaginations and the four-day time constraints.
"Moab is the traditional spot for UEA weekend," said Principal Greg Proffit of Ecker Hill International Middle School. "Come Wednesday afternoon you see a steady stream of traffic headed south from Summit county."
"We have two sinks we need to get installed in the bathrooms, and we also have to catch up on school stuff," Proffit said of himself and his wife Jill, a teacher .
" It’s a release time," he said.
Proffit said attendance dropped substantially on Wednesday, the day before the UEA conference. Of the 695 enrolled in Ecker Hill, 75 were absent, compared with around 20 on the average school day.
Principal Michele Wallace of Jeremy Ranch Elementary School, said, "UEA has become a Utah tradition, an October break. It used to come along with the start of the deer hunt," she said. "For a while it was moved to the end of the month, but it was too chilly to enjoy. They moved it back to mid-October. Now is a beautiful time of month for families to travel."
"I’m going to be painting my basement," Wallace said. "I’ll also be here (school) putting these piles of paper to rest."
"It’s a matter of perspective how you utilize the time," Mindy Nelson, a Jeremy Ranch Elementary School councilor said.
"I’ll be staying pretty close to home. I’m going to work on my yard, probably catch up on school stuff Or I might go down to the UEA convention."
UEA is a unionized group of educators, administrators and school personnel with approximately 18,000 members. The convention is an exchange of ideas intended to improve Utah education, and it offers training session for teachers.
This year’s theme was "Meeting the needs of all learners and closing the achievement gaps." The UEA convention was hosted at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City.
UEA spokesman Mark Mickelson expected between 3,000 to 5,000 attendees over the two days. He said more than 70 percent of Utah teachers are members of UEA.
"This is two days of outstanding professional development," Mickelson said. "We certainly don’t encourage people to spend it as a vacation. In fact, we strongly discourage that."
"It’s nice to have a break and get away," said UEA convention speaker Valerie Pollard. "It’s also good to put in time to improve education for our children and grandchildren."
Nelson spoke of the modest-sized accommodations at the Salt Palace convention.
"If every teacher did show up, we’d be in trouble."
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Buses, trains and gondolas doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but they make up the transit alternatives for the mountain transportation system the Central Wasatch Commission is trying to create, mostly in the Cottonwood canyons.