Fulton teachers concerned they can no longer take special “COVID leave” if exposed

Fulton County teachers may be forced to use sick days if they get COVID

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Fulton County School teachers learned this week that if they’re exposed to COVID-19 and have to quarantine or become sick, they’ll no longer be able to take special leave.

For some teachers who have been quarantined multiple times this semester that could hurt their bottom line. It’s an issue educators across the country are facing.

In an email to teachers Tuesday, school leaders said because the Families First Coronavirus Response Act had expired at the end of 2020, so-called “COVID-19 leave” would be going away and that teachers who can’t work will have to take sick and/or vacation time to cover them.

Content Continues Below

“It’s ridiculous,” said a middle school teacher, who agreed to speak to Channel 2′s Mike Petchenik on the condition of anonymity.

“Because when we do have to take sick days to be quarantine, we’re not able to teach virtually, so that our students are missing out as well,” she said. “And it’s a big spiral.”

RELATED STORIES

A teacher and others who contacted Petchenik said a line in the e-mail suggested quarantines are happening because teachers aren’t being careful.

“Lastly, the majority of quarantined FCS employees has been due to a direct contact with another positive employee, so it is critically important that employees diligently practice the safety measures necessary for preventing COVID-19 spread and direct contacts in the workplace,” the e-mail from Chief Talent Officer Ron Wade read.

“It just left a really bad taste in my mouth, because I’m thinking about that, that we’re doing everything that we can to make sure that everyone stays safe,” the teacher said.

“And yet, you know, the only people that I know who have to had to quarantine is because of direct exposure to students, not teacher to teacher. And so it just seemed like the blame was coming on to teachers for the reason of that we were the reason that we were getting sick,” she added.

Petchenik reached out to school officials, who sent him this response:

“The intent of the email was to inform our employees of the expiration of the federal guidelines,” district spokesman Brian Noyes said. “We also regularly provide statements to remind all of us of the shared responsibility we have to take appropriate precautions during this pandemic. We all have a part to play and the steps outlined in the email (mask wearing, social distancing, limiting face-to-face gatherings, not reporting to work when sick or symptomatic, and handwashing) are consistent with the recommendations made by health care officials for our entire community.”