If teachers decide they will not return in person, they may take a leave of absence or retire. Teachers taking leaves of absence may use available paid sick days until they are exhausted. Once the unpaid period begins, benefits, including health care, expire one to two months later, depending on the date the unpaid period begins, the district’s bargaining agreement with teachers states. Federal COVID-19 relief provisions that previously allowed individuals to qualify for emergency paid sick leave were allowed to expire in December, and mandates for leave were extended as unpaid leave only.
One of Seaholm’s retiring teachers, Barbara Harte, voices that many teachers are returning only because they have to.
The Board voted 7-0 on Tuesday, January 19 in favor of a resolution to maintain the current instructional plan. No member of the BPS Board of Education has responded to questions emailed to them at the time of this article’s publication, nor have any firmly declined to comment. If they provide answers to The Highlander’s questions or decline to, this article will be updated.
Board Trustee Nicole McKinney inquired in Tuesday’s meeting on the degree of vaccine rollout to teachers, and trustees Jennifer Rass and Adrienne Young stated their reservations against returning to full in-person elementary instruction with no social distancing before teachers have the opportunity to receive COVID-19 vaccines.
“I’m excited to have students back in the building and conducting face-to-face instruction, even if it is for just a handful of them each day. I also have concerns about the health and safety of both the students and staff and hope everybody takes safety precautions seriously.” –Mathematics Department Head Dr. Thad Wilhelm
“I think that teachers are really excited to see their students. We want to have that in-person connection, but at the same time, there’s trepidation and a little bit a fear of getting COVID… that there could be a loss. I think teachers are feeling a little bit anxious, that’s my opinion.” –Social Studies Department Head Rochelle Rogers
“At the end of the day, whether it comes off that way or not, teachers want to do what’s best for students. [Teachers] are willing to put their fears aside, even if they’re open about them.” –Science Department Head Brad Schopieray
“As counselors, we’re going to really listen to the students and adults, other staff members, anyone that needs us, we’re just going to listen and help them process their feelings.” –Counseling Department Head Kristy Fekaris.
She went on to explain Seaholm counselors can connect staff and students with mental health resources outside of school.