The meeting also created many more questions and concerns for educators as the plan to move full steam ahead in opening schools next month was shared. Granted the district shared some protocols, but none of what was shared felt like it would answer the immediate questions educators continue to have.
Mike McDonough, President of the Granite Education Association, was also on the call to monitor the responses from the district and board since he and other GEA staff and leaders have been petitioning both parties to acknowledge educator concerns (and by “educator” we mean all GEA members who instruct and support students).
What we do know for certain is that plans have not been finalized. We still have time to affect change, and GEA will continue to work with the district to that end. Also, we know that the specific concerns, such as crowded classrooms, hallways, cafeterias, outside school equipment, online instruction, hygiene and sanitation processes, etc. will all be decided at the school building level. Principals will have the charge of taking a finalized district-wide plan and making it work in their school communities. They will not be doing this alone, but depending on school leadership teams, and building professional committees to lead out on the day-to-day guidelines for safety. Here are some of the many protocols the individual schools (principals and educators) are required to address per the Utah State Board of Education:
- Faculty and staff must wear masks (or shields or other acceptable face covering) when physical distancing is not feasible. (Those who medically cannot wear a mask will need to make alternative arrangements with their principals).
- Per Governor Herbert’s declaration, it will also be mandatory for students to wear masks when physical distancing is not feasible.
- Hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, soap and water must be readily available in controlled environments.
- Training to mitigate risks in the classroom.
- Identify high traffic areas and apply floor markings or signage to direct traffic
- Designate entry/exit flow paths to minimize congestion
- Provide plexiglass, face shields, and or auxiliary aids for one-on-one close contact to ensure students with disabilities have equal access to information
- Offer reasonable accommodations for students who are unable to wear face coverings in settings where it is required for other students
- Educate and promote to staff/students, “If you feel sick; stay home”
One of the biggest questions GEA is receiving from members right now is about leave benefits in this pandemic environment. We posted a blog which addressed leave as presented by the district which included all the leave options available to employees via the professional agreement. Many are asking, “what if I don’t have enough accumulated sick days?” or “what if my child(ren) are ill and need(s) to quarantine for 14 days? The health department alphabet soup (CDC, Utah Health Department, USBE) all require plans for high risk employees. Here’s how the USBE defines high-risk individuals:
“people 65 years and older, people who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility, people of all ages with underlying medical conditions, including lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, people who have serious heart conditions, people who are immunocompromised (many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications), people with severe obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis or liver disease.”
If you believe your situation is described above, contact Berkley King, HR Benefits Director, at Granite School District AND contact GEA.
In addition to your contractual leave benefits, the Family First Coronavirus Response Act provides federal benefits as well:
- 2 – Paid Leave Buckets – in addition to what the district provides – available until through December 31, 2020 (this deadline may be extended by the federal government).
- Bucket 1 – 10 Days Paid Sick Leave for YOU – at employees’ regular rate of pay if the employee is unable to work because s/he is quarantined and/or experiencing COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis. This regular rate is subject to caps.
- Bucket 1 – 10 Days Paid Sick Leave for you because you have to take care of another individual subject to quarantine or because you have to care for your child because his/her school is closed or child care provider is sick for reasons related to COVID. This other sick leave is at 2/3 pay and subject to other caps.
- Bucket 2 – Expanded Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This is NOT in addition to the regular FMLA but it includes 10 weeks paid leave at 2/3 pay, if:
- You were employed for at least 30 days
- You are unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
- The amount of eligible leave is reduced by any amount of FMLA already taken by the employee
We will get through this together. Student success is at the heart of everything we do in public education. An educators’ well-being (mental, emotional, physical) is at the heart of everything GEA does for members. Together we will balance the ups and downs of the next school year.
Finally, here is a chart from the CDC which outlines the necessary protocols for school districts re-opening.