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Palm Beach County School Board discusses options for employees when brick-and-mortar schools reopen

No date set for return to brick-and-mortar schools in Palm Beach County
Posted at 6:51 AM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 22:28:05-04

School leaders in Palm Beach County on Wednesday are discussing options and accommodations for employees when brick-and-mortar schools eventually reopen.

"Many of you have conveyed concerns about returning to the classroom, expressing that you have severe underlying medical conditions that you feel may be further compromised if you return to in-person instruction," Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy said at a virtual school board workshop.

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In a letter to employees, the School District of Palm Beach County said it provides employees many options to take leaves of absence that include, but are not limited to, medical and personal leaves.

But many teachers, as well as the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association, have expressed concerns about remote working opportunities for employees when students are allowed back in classrooms.

"We will work with employees to the best of our ability," Fennoy said. "But we must have our schools staffed and we must deliver in-person instruction for those families that choose to return to our campuses when we reopen."

Brick-and-mortar schools are expected to reopen one week after Palm Beach County enters Phase Two of Florida's reopening plan. An official date has not been set.

Gordon Longhofer, a math teacher and the vice president of the CTA, said teachers at high-risk of medical issues want to know they have options.

"We've got teachers [who] are in that situation," Longhofer said. "They deserve to know that they can teach safe or, if necessary, do their job remotely when students are back in the classroom, with some other supports to help those students."

According to the school board's agenda, board members will hear a presentation and discuss a remote work option policy for employees who have COVID-19, live with someone who does, get sent home from work because of possible exposure, are 65 and older, or have pre-existing medical conditions that put them at higher risk.

The school district defines pre-existing medical conditions, identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to include:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
  • Obesity (body mass index of 30 or higher)
  • Serious heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, and cardiomyopathies
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

According to the policy being developed, employees would discuss the remote work option with their direct supervisor.

Under the policy, remote work eligibility would be based on each employee's job and needs of the work site. It states that 80% of the employee's actual job duties must be able to be performed through digital platforms, determination will be made by the employee's direct supervisor, and the employee may only appeal the decision to deny remote work to whom they report or that individual's supervisor.

You can learn more about the proposed policy by clicking here.

RELATED: Palm Beach County parents to receive phone call about return to brick-and-mortar schools

At Wednesday's school board meeting, board members will discuss a number of other items including a suggestion from Dr. Debra Robinson to offer weekly COVID-19 testing at every school in the district for students and staff members who wish to be tested.

The school board is not scheduled to officially vote on any items on Wednesday.