PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Teachers in St. Lucie County will now receive 10 days of paid COVID-19 leave if required to quarantine by either the school district or the Florida Department of Health.
The minimum length for teachers required to stay home if deemed a close contact is 10 days.
"We're asking our educators to go in harms way and to be in a situation, so it can be potentially dangerous," said David Freeland, president of the Education Association of St. Lucie. "But at least it provides them soft landing financially so they don't have to worry about, 'How am I going to pay my bills if I get sick at work?'"
The policy change comes after the recent decision allowing parents to choose if they want to quarantine children who are asymptomatic after close contact with a positive case.
"That presents a real problem for teachers because it's potentially possible now that a student could be positive but be asymptomatic," said Freeland.
"Really, our goal is to encourage our teachers and staff to stay home if they are sick or not feeling well or test positive," said Chief Academic Officer Helen Wild.
If sent home a second time, staff members could be eligible for in-line of duty of pay, if they can prove their close contact was at school.
"It is something not all districts enjoy, so it's something that we are thankful for," said Freeland.
There's also added help for the quarantine support staff who will receive a raise equal to their hourly rate, rather than the normal $23 per hour stipend.
So far, 70 teachers have taken on the role of helping students at home after school hours.
"They have an adult checking in on them on a regular basis and making sure they're keeping pace, don't have any questions or they're not stuck in any way," said Wild. "It's just an extra layer of support to keep our students on track."