HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) — The Connecticut Board of Education Union Coalition sent a letter to the governor to create uniform policy for managing COVID-19 quarantines in schools.
On Tuesday, the letter was sent to Governor Ned Lamont outlining the need for the uniform policy regarding how school districts should handle quarantines and leaves in all public schools.
Coalition leaders say that there are too many school districts that are not following procedures established by health experts for responding to COVID-19 exposures.
This goes back to the federal act that granted teachers two weeks, full pay, if they had to quarantine because of the coronavirus. That act expired at the end of the year, and no the union says some districts aren’t offering that protection in 2021.
The letter said districts are disregarding State Department of Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona’s recommendation to accommodate educators’ requests to work remotely due to health conditions, quarantines, or the need to care for children at home.
The coalition is asking for a consistent policy for all public schools in the state regarding quarantine and leave when there is COVID-19 in schools.
“This can absolutely be a matter of life and death as everyone knows with the coronavirus,” said Don Williams, CEA Executive Director.
Last year, the Family First Coronavirus Response Act gave the teachers and staff the ability to quarantine and get paid. It also gave them the option to work from home if they had health conditions.
“We’re seeing teachers being told that they cannot use in some cases their own sick days, but they could not stay on salary if they have to quarantine or of they have a medical condition or their doctor is saying they should stay home,” Williams said.
The letter also says that many districts are following advice from legal counsel, which is denying educators and staff the opportunity to work remotely and informing those who must quarantine that they are not eligible for paid leave.
“This reckless advice ignores the guidance from public health experts and puts the entire state in jeopardy,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “The governor must move quickly to reject these negligent practices by mandating that school districts take a responsible and not punitive approach to handling quarantines and leaves that do not put public health at risk. Right now, too many educators and staff are being forced to choose between their jobs and their health and are being given the unacceptable option of either teaching in person or taking unpaid leave.”
Williams says he knows of more than one case where districts have made teachers come into work, but refused to name names.
“We know this is going on in a number of districts around the state. We’re hoping that before we’re calling them out by name that we can get the standard clarified. This is not about assigning blame as it is about fixing this,” Williams said.
Channel 3 asked the unions if they had a rough estimate of the percentage of their members who took advantage of the act last year, but they didn’t have those numbers.
Channel 3 also reached out to the governor’s office to see if they would be open to extending the act on the state level, but they have not responded.
The coalition represents over 60,000 public school employees.
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