Linda, one important question. What is on the other side of the wall from where the faucet handles are located? The normal way to handle this is to cut an access hole between the studs from behind the plumbing, frame the hole and put in a plywood panel. You normally cannot reach the plumbing to work on it from the side. You have to be able to get to it from the back. If you are against an outside wall, the tub should have been put in with the faucets and drain at tthe other end.
If you can cut an access panel from the back, then you can put tile on the face of the tub with cement board under it.