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In a reversal of an earlier proposal, the Houston ISD Board of Education approved a request by interim superintendent Grenita Lathan to restore paid leave for staff related to COVID-19. Employees who are required to quarantine due to a COVID-19 diagnosis or exposure to an infected person will be given paid leave.“In the interest of health and safety, it is the district’s intention and goal to fully support employees who are required to quarantine as a result of contracting COVID-19 or being exposed to it,” Lathan said in a news release. “This is an important and necessary provision as we continue to navigate the pandemic.”At a Dec. 11 meeting of HISD principals, the working plan was for teachers to use their own leave days and not be allowed to teach from home in the event of a diagnosis or exposure.Now employees will be able to apply for up to 80 total hours – or 10 days – of emergency paid sick leave if required to quarantine. Principals have the discretion to give teachers and other campus-based employees the ability to work or teach remotely, if the employee needs to quarantine and if working off-campus fulfills school needs.The board-approved resolution extended benefits provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which expired Dec. 31. If Congress modifies or extends the federal act, the resolution also gives the superintendent the authority to determine how employees may use the 80 hours of leave originally provided by the FFCRA.Vaccine for teachersHouston’s teachers have been vocal about wanting to be prioritized for receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.“We continually hear how important it is to get teachers and students back to in-person instruction, so it makes perfect sense to protect the people that would be on our school campuses,” Texas AFT President Zeph Capo said last month.Thus far, teachers not in the 1A and 1B priority groups as outlined by the state are not eligible to be vaccinated.But for those who do qualify – school nurses, school police officers and school wellness teams, as well as those 65 and older, or those with at least one chronic medical condition – HISD has partnered with Kroger and Next Level to assist employees in receiving a vaccine.HISD defines wellness teams as those individuals on the frontline at the schools who check temperatures daily for school entry and support school nurses.For more HISD updates related to COVID-19, visit https://www.houstonisd.org/healthalerts.
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