CAVE CREEK, AZ — While hundreds of students are in quarantine, teachers in Cave Creek must decide whether to potentially work sick, infected with COVID-19, or burn their PTO to avoid infecting others.
On Wednesday, Cave Creek Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Cort Monroe sent an email to district staff saying that a new policy was in order, forcing teachers and staff to use their personal sick leave time to stay home if exposed to COVID-19.
This after federal support paid family leave from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, part of the CARES ACT, ended on December 31, no longer giving essential employees extra days of sick time after being exposed to COVID-19.
Excerpts from Dr. Monroe's email read:
"Thus, IF, as an essential employee, you were potentially exposed within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hours period OR had physical contact with a person with COVID-19 AND you do not have any symptoms, you may choose to remain at work.
An employee MAY choose to quarantine themselves if they have been exposed but their days off of the site will be pulled from their sick leave. There is no longer a “work from home” option.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been diagnosed with COVID-19, you are to be at home, concentrating on your health and healing. If you have been exposed, you will have the choice to quarantine OR to remain at work. All distance learning, service delivery, and support will be provided from a CCUSD site and not from an employee’s home."
Per the policy, teachers are not allowed to work from home and teach virtually if deciding to quarantine.
Cave Creek Education Association President Cadi Angeli said that the CCEA gave a small amount of input in the policy but did not partake in the decision making.
Teachers currently have no safety net for sick leave if exposed to COVID-19. Any additional time off would have to first be approved by the CCUSD Governing Board, who voted to move learning to in-person in the first place.
For students, there is no break in education when quarantining, such is the case for freshman Jaden Grandon, who is joining his classmates on Tuesday after coming into close contact with a classmate who tested positive for COVID-19.
"I was in first block when my teacher came up to me and said, “You’re being quarantined, just go up to the front office," said Grandon. Angeli said as of Friday, nearly 200 students were out for COVID-19 reasons.
One teacher said that the number was as high as 300 last week, and another teacher said, "If I had to guess we probably have had upwards of 400 students in quarantine in the last week.”
"I’ve heard some teachers have classes as small as four," said a Cactus Shadows teacher.
ABC15 reached out the district, but the district offices are closed until Tuesday due to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday on Monday.
During their January 12 meeting, the CCUSD Governing Board voted to discuss and come up with metrics to continue in-person learning, no specific date has been given.