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More teachers may have to go back to in-person teaching in Hillsborough County

Posted at 5:27 PM, Jan 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-11 17:47:09-05

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — School leaders in Hillsborough County say some teachers may have to return to the classroom for the Spring semester — and how many will depend on the number of students returning.

“We believe that there are plenty of students out there in Hillsborough County that know they’re going to continue e-learning, so there are plenty of e-learning teacher opportunities for our medically accommodated teachers,” said Rob Kriete, the President of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association.

The district says it makes every effort possible to match educators with their instruction method of choice but notes the decision to move a teacher back into the classroom comes down to student demand at their school.

“We have our teachers that are medically accommodated, and the district works with us very well in finding and get our teachers either a yellow, orange or red designation based upon their medical needs,” said Kriete.

The district says teachers who don’t want to come back to the classroom can leave absence.

“That’s a non-paid leave of absence, but that is the last thing that we want to happen,” said Kriete.

He says as more teachers go back, the district must look at ways to support teachers if they get sick and have to quarantine.

“Would people naturally come in with symptoms when they normally wouldn’t have to? That’s gonna put others at risk, both students and other teachers. We need to be very aware of that,” said Kriete.

Last year, funding built into the CARES act allowed employees 10 days of paid leave that would not come out of their sick days, but that expired December 31.

“School districts around the country are trying to figure out now what do we do for our employees that no longer have this bank of 10 days to draw from?” Kriete said. “Especially if one they are a new employee and they don’t have the days in the bank.”

Right now, the district allows teachers who must quarantine the ability to stay home and teach virtually while a substitute is physically in the classroom to monitor students in person. The district also says it’s continuing to advocate for additional funding from state and federal lawmakers when it comes to paid leave for teachers who must quarantine.