PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — After making the application available on Tuesday afternoon, the School District of Palm Beach County says more than 1,200 employees have already applied for remote working assignments as of Thursday evening.
The option was made available for employees with health concerns who want to continue working remotely when classrooms open for brick-and-mortar instruction on Monday, Sept. 21.
The human resources department said it will begin processing those applications on Thursday, beginning with special education teachers. It expects to get through hundreds of applications a day, as team members work to get the applications processed before the return to the classroom.
Priority approval will be given based on medical need.
Many teachers and board members have continually expressed frustration that this process is getting underway now, less than two weeks before campuses reopen.
Justin Katz, the president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association, has even called for the human resources chief to be removed because of it.
During Wednesday’s school board meeting, board members heard more about the process and asked dozens of questions about how it will work when a teacher is assigned to work remotely.
Once a teacher is granted approval from human resources, the school principal will work with the teacher on the availability of a remote teaching position. If not available, the employee can appeal to human resources to find another virtual position. That could mean changing schools to accommodate the request. If that happens, the teacher would be able to return to the home school after the remote assignment.
District leaders said they will do their best to minimize disruption to student schedules and keep students with their current teachers.
"Why in the world are we doing this? We’re doing this the week before school starts? Dr. La Cava [human resources chief], this should have been done weeks and weeks and weeks ago," school board chairman Frank Barbieri said at Wednesday's board meeting. "That’s the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. We’re trying to come up with all these reasons why we’re doing this now quickly as possible, when we should have done this before teachers did their master boards. What’s the excuse for this?"
"No excuses. I just want to make sure to do something well, we have think through it," Dr. Gonzalo La Cava, Chief of Human Resources, said in response. "We had to wait on data, and HR was the last piece of this."
School board member Marcia Andrews said she is disgusted they are still at this point in the process.
District leaders are also meeting with principals on Thursday to go over the process.
Staff members say 12,000 employees could fall into medical exemption categories.
District leaders also said 122,000 parents have responded to the return-to-school choice survey and about 67,000 have chosen distance learning.
Palm Beach County teachers who want to apply for remote work can do so by clicking here.