An advocacy group for Dallas ISD employees is calling for the current COVID-19 sick time policy to be reversed, saying that the policy does not allow enough time for teachers to recover and puts students and other staff members at risk of being infected.
A new CDC policy was announced on December 27, 2021, stating, “Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, the CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation for the public. People with COVID-19 should isolate for five days. If they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for twenty-four hours), follow that by five days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter. The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the one to two days prior to [the] onset of symptoms and the two to three days after.”
“At a time teachers are burning out and leaving, the least DISD could do is stop nickel-and-diming teachers’ health,” Hobie Hukill, a recently retired DISD math teacher, told Fox 4 via a press conference.
The 10,000 DISD teachers and staff represented by Alliance AFT say the DISD sick-time policy was changed from ten days to five on January 7. However, according to Hukill, teachers must use their own sick time if they are still symptomatic after the five days, and if they do not have sick time or paid time off available, they would need to return to work. The DISD policy conflicts with the CDC’s policy, stating that people should remain isolated until fever-free for twenty-four hours.
In a statement sent to Fox 4, a DISD spokesperson stated, “The safety and well-being of our students and staff continue to be our top priority. We remain committed to following CDC recommendations…all employees who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate for five days and may also be eligible for Emergency Paid Sick Leave during that time. Employees who are still symptomatic after five days can use PTO or apply for a leave of absence.”
Hukill says the DISD policy isn’t satisfactory. “Because vaccines don’t prevent multiple infections, this policy is quickly depleting teachers’ paid time off,” he said.
The president of the Alliance AFT, Rena Honea, says many teachers have said they feel they have no choice but to return to class, despite having a fever or other symptoms, because they don’t want to have their income docked.
Ultimately, Honea tells Fox 4 that she feels the only way to stop the spread of the virus is to allow teachers to remain isolated without forcing them to use their paid time off. “This affects every team member. Imagine a cafeteria worker going to work sick and handling food,” Honea said.