WEST JORDAN — When special education teacher Laurie Larson heard some of her Jordan District peers who were teaching exclusively online classes this year would be getting an additional $3,000, she couldn’t imagine why.

To her, the much more difficult task was trying to hold in-person classes with all of the coronavirus precautions, including masks, cleaning and social distancing.

“We were all flabbergasted,” Larson said, the reaction she and other teachers had to learning about the online “stipend.”

“We know how it was when we were home doing lesson plans, and many of us had a lot of free time.”

This spring, every teacher became an online-only teacher when in-person classes were canceled through the end of the school year as the pandemic reached Utah, and she said unlike those who are teaching online classes this fall, they had to come up with their own curriculum in a matter of days.

A representative for the Jordan School District said the $3,000 stipend was only available to elementary school teachers and that it is standard to compensate teachers for doing extra work.

Wendy Moss resigned from her teaching position with the Jordan District over health and safety concerns, and she said it’s teachers trying to deal with coronavirus precautions in the physical classroom who deserve extra pay.

“I think everybody realizes after last spring that teaching online is a lot of work,” Moss said. “The teachers who are going to actually be in the classroom are putting their physical safety in danger. And they feel like that is not being addressed.”

Moss feels like the controversy pits teachers against each other, an unfortunate situation as Larson said teachers have come together in all kinds of ways, including helping those who aren’t as versed in technology and protecting teachers who have health issues.

“We all felt like teaching online is not even as hard as what we’re doing to get these classrooms ready,” she said.

That means arranging rooms with as much space between student desks as possible, putting plexiglass barriers up where needed, and trying to come up with a schedule of how teachers will supervise everything from lunch to recess to bathrooms.

“We’re all afraid to go back,” she said. “But we know that’s what’s best for the kids. Unless the disease takes over.”

She said many teachers are terrified to speak up about issues that arise, but the 30-year veteran said she wanted to understand why the decision had been made to give online teachers extra money when in-person teachers were taking more risks.

“Many of us know teachers who need to be at home and online,” she said. “Maybe some of us would have applied, but we felt like there were going to be too many.”

So most teachers she knows left the online opportunities for teachers who would be considered high risk — older or with underlying health conditions. Now she wonders if that was the right decision.

“And now that we’re sitting there in the classroom looking at it, I think we’re all rethinking,” Larson said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, man, maybe we should go online.’ Because we don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know if we’ll take it home to our families.”

Larson called all of the Jordan School Board members, and she said none of them knew about the extra pay for online-only elementary school teachers.

“It seemed like it was slipped in, in a secretive way, without the board’s approval,” said Larson, who now not only wants the district to rectify the situation, she wants to understand how it happened. “The board is trying so hard to build up morale.”

In her three decades of teaching, she said this is the “best board we’ve had in 20 years. I feel like they’re trying their hardest.”

Contributing: Ladd Egan